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LIBRARY   OF   SOVIET  LITERATURE 


KEY  TO 
PRS?!C1PAL  CHARACTERS 


ASTAKHOV.    STEPAN.     A    Cossack. 

ASTAKHOVA,     AKSIiNYA.     Wife     of    Stepan. 

BUNCHUK,     ILYA.     A    Cossack     revolutionary. 

FOMIN,  YAKOV  YEFIMOVICH.  A  Cossack  command- 
er, f.t  first  a  Red,  tlien  leader  of  a  White  bandit 
group. 

KALMYKOV,  White  Guard  officer. 

KAPARlN.  Captain.  Red  officer.  Afterwards  Fomin's 
chief  of  staff. 

KOPYLOV,  MIKHAIL  GRIGORYEVICH.  Captain. 
Chief    of    staff    to    Grigory    Melekhov. 

KORSHUNOV,    GRISHAKA.    An    old    Cossack. 

KORSHUNOV,  MIRON  GRIGORYEVICH,  His  son, 
father    of    Natalya    Melekhova. 

KORSHUNOVA,  iVlARYA  LUKINICHNA.  Wife  of 
Miron. 

KORSHUNOV,  DIMITRY  MIRONOVICH  (Mitka).  Son 
of  Miron   and   Marya    Korshunov. 

KORSHUNOVA,  AGRIPPINA  MIRONOVNA.  Daugh- 
ter of   Miron   and   Marya. 

KOSHEVOI,   MIKHAIL    (Misha).    A   Red   Cossack. 

KOTLYAROV,    IVAN   ALEXEYEVICH.    A    Red    Cossack; 

KRIVOSHLYKOV.     A     Cossack    revolutionary. 

KUDINOV.  Commander  of  Don  Cossack  insurgent 
forces. 

LISTNITSKY,  NIKOLAI  ALEXEYEVICH.  A  land- 
owner, 

LISTNITSKY,  YEVGENY  NIKOLAYEVICH.  Son  of 
Nikolai  Listnitsky,    a   Wliite     officer. 

MELEKHOV,  PANTELEI  PROKOFYEVICH.  An  elderly 
Cossack. 


MELEKHOVA,  ILYINICHNA.  Wife  of  Pantelei. 

MELEKHOV,  PYOTR  PANTELEYEVICH.  Panlelei'S 
elder   son,   a   Cossack  officer. 

MELEKHOV,  GRIGORY  PANTELEYEVICH  (Grisha). 
Pantelei's  younger  son,  a  Cossack  officer,  com- 
mander   of    Cossack    insurgent    division. 

MELEKHOVA,  YEVDOKIYA  PANTELEYEVNA  (Du- 
nya).    Pantelei's    daughter. 

MELEKHOVA,    DARYA.    Wife    of   Pyotr    Melekhov. 

MELEKHOVA,   NATALYA,   Wife    of   Grigory   Melekhov; 

MELEKHOVA,  POLYA  (Polyushka).  Daughter  of  Gri- 
gory  and   Natalya. 

MELEKHOV,  MISHATKA.  Son  of  Grigory  and  Na- 
talya. 

MOKHOV,  SERGEI  PLATONOVICH.  Shopkeeper  and 
mill-owner  in  the  village  of  Tatarsky. 

MOKHOVA,  YELIZAVETA  SERGEYEVNA  (Liza).  Ser- 
gei's daughter. 

PODTYOLKOV.  A  Cossack  revolutionary.  Commander 
of  Red   Cossack    forces. 

POGUDKO,  ANNA.  Machine-gunner  in  Bunchuk's 
detachment 

SHAMIL,  MARTIN,  ALEXEI  and  PROKHOR.  Cos- 
sacks, brothers. 

STOCKMAN.  OSIP  DAVYDOVICH.  A  Communist 
organizer. 

TIMOFEI,    "Knave."    Scalesman    at    Mokhov's   mill. 

TOKIN,  CHRISTONYA.  A  Cossack. 

ZYKOV,  PROKHOR.  A  Cossack,  orderly  to  Grigory 
Melekhov, 


MAUoJyir<^ 


MHXAHJI   IllOJIOXOB 

TMXMM  AOH 


POMAH  B  HETblPEX  KHHFAX 

KHMTA    nEPBAfl 


MSAATE/lbCTBO   /IHTEPATypbl  HA  MHOCTPAHHblX  fI3blKAX 
M  O  C  K  B  A 


MIKHAIL  SHOLOKHOV 

AND  QUIET  FLOWS 
THE  DON 


A  NOVEL  IN  FOUR  BOOKS 

BOOK    ONE 


FOREIGN     LANGUAGES     PUBLISHING     HOUSE 
MOSCOW 


A  TRANSLATION    FROM   THE    RUSSIAN 
BY    STEPHEN    GARRY 


REVISED    AND   COMPLETED 
BY     ROBERT     DAGLISH 


DESIGNED 
BY     O.     VEREISKY    AND     Y.    KOPYLOV 


v.l 


BOOK     ONE 


Not  by  the  plough  is  our  glorious  earth  furrowed. . , . 

Our  earth  is   turrowed  by    horses'    hoots. 

And  sown  is  our  earth  with  the  heads  of  Cossacks. 

Fair  is  our  quiet  Don  with  young  widows. 

Our  father,  the  quiet  Don,  blossoms   with   orphans. 

And  the  waves  of  the  quiet  Don  are  filled 

with  fathers'  and  mothers'  tears. 


Oh  thou,   our  father,  the  quiet  Don! 

Oh  why  dost  thou,  our  quiet  Don,  so  sludgy  flow? 

How  should  I,  the  quiet  Don,  but  sludgy  Row! 

From  my  depths  the   cold   springs  beat. 

Amid  me,    the  quiet  Don,  the  lohite  fish  leap. 


Old    Cossack   Songs. 


PART    ONE 


T 


he  Melekhov  farm  was 
at  the  very  end  of  the 
village.  The  gate  of  the 
cattle-yard  opened  northward  towards  the  Don, 
A  steep,  fifty-foot  slope  between  chalky,  moss- 
grown  banks,  and  there  was  the  shore.  A  pearly 
drift  of  mussel-shells,  a  grey,  broken  edging 
of  wave-kissed  shingle,  and  then-the  steel-blue, 
rippling  surface  of  the  Don,  seething  in  the 
wind.  To  the  east,  beyond  the  willow-wattle 
fences  of  threshing-floors-the  Hetman's  high- 
way, grizzled  wormwood  scrub,  the  hardy 
greyish-brown,  hoof-trodden  plantain,  a  cross 
standing  at  the  fork  of  the  road,  and  then  the 
steppe,  enveloped  in  a  shifting  haze.  To  the 
south,  a  chalky  ridge  of  hills.  To  the  west,  the 
street,  crossing  the  square  and  nmning  towards 
the  leas. 

The  Cossack  Prokofy  Melekhov  returned  to 
the  village  during  the  last    war  but    one    with 

// 


Turkey,  He  brought  back  a  wife-a  little  woman 
wrapped  from  head  to  foot  in  a  shawl.  She  kept 
her  face  covered,  and  rarely  revealed  her  wild, 
yearning  eyes.  The  silken  shawl  bore  the  scent 
of  strange,  aromatic  perfumes;  its  rainbow-hued 
patterns  aroused  the  envy  of  the  Cossack  wom- 
en. The  captive  Turkish  woman  kept  aloof 
from  Prokofy's  relations,  and  before  long  old 
Melekhov  gave  his  son  his  portion.  All  his  life 
the  old  man  refused  to  set  foot  inside  his  son's 
house;  he  never  got  over  the  disgrace. 

Prokofy  speedily  made  shift  for  himself;  car- 
penters built  him  a  house,  he  himself  fenced  in 
the  cattle-yard,  and  in  the  early  autumn  he  took 
his  bowed  foreign  wife  to  her  new  home.  He 
walked  with  her  through  the  village,  behind 
the  cart  laden  with  their  worldly  goods.  Every- 
body, from  the  oldest  to  the  youngest,  rushed 
into  the  street.  The  men  laughed  discreetly  into 
their  beards,  the  women  passed  vociferous  re- 
marks to  one  another,  a  swarm  of  unwashed 
Cossack  children  shouted  catcalls  after  Prokofy. 
But,  with  overcoat  unbuttoned,  he  walked  slowly 
along,  as  though  following  a  freshly-ploughed 
furrow,  squeezing  his  wife's  fragile  wrist  in  his 
own  enormous,  black  palm,  and  holding  his 
head  with  its  straw-white  mat  of  curls  high  in 
defiance.  Only  the  wens  below  his  cheek-bones 

12 


swelled  and  quivered,  and  the  sweat  stood  out 
between  his  stony  brows. 

Thenceforth  he  was  rarely  seen  in  the  village, 
and  never  even  attended  the  Cossack  gather- 
ings. He  lived  a  secluded  life  in  his  solitary 
house  by  the  Don.  Strange  stories  were  told  of 
him  in  the  village.  The  boys  who  pastured  the 
calves  beyond  the  meadow-road  declared  that 
of  an  evening,  as  the  light  was  dying,  they  had 
seen  Prokofy  carrying  his  wife  in  his  arms 
right  as  far  as  the  Tatar  burial  mound.  He 
would  set  her  down,  with  her  back  to  an  an- 
cient, weather-beaten,  porous  rock,  on  the  crest 
of  the  mound,  sit  down  at  her  side,  and  they 
would  gaze  fixedly  across  the  steppe.  They 
would  gaze  until  the  sunset  had  faded,  and 
then  Prokofy  would  wrap  his  wife  in  his  sheep- 
skin and  carry  her  back  home.  The  village  was 
lost  in  conjecture,  seeking  an  explanation  for 
such  astonishing  behaviour.  The  women  gos- 
siped so  much  that  they  had  not  even  time  to 
search  each  other's  heads  for  lice.  Rumour  was 
rife  about  Prokofy's  wife  also;  some  declared 
that  she  was  of  entrancing  beauty;  others  main- 
tained the  contrary.  The  matter  was  settled  when 
one  of  the  most  ^venturesome  of  the  women,  the 
soldier's  wife  Mavra,  ran  along  to  Prokofy's 
house  on  the  pretext  of  getting  some  leaven; 
Prokofy    went    down    into    the    cellar  for    the 

13 


leaven,  and  Mavra  had  time  to  discover  thai 
Prokofy's  Turkish  conquest  was  a  perfect  fright. 

A  few  minutes  later  Mavra,  her  face  flushed 
and  her  kerchief  awry,  was  entertaining  a  crowd 
of  women  in  a  by-lane: 

"And  what  could  he  have  seen  in  her,  my 
dears?  If  she'd  only  been  a  woman  now,  but  a 
creature  like  her!  Our  girls  are  far  better 
covered!  Why,  you  could  pull  her  apart  like  a 
wasp.  And  those  great  big  black  eyes,  she 
flashes  them  like  Satan,  God  forgive  me.  She 
must  be  near  her  time,  God's  truth." 

"Near  her  time?"  the  women  marvelled. 

"I  wasn't  bom  yesterday!  I've  reared  three 
myself." 

"But  what's    her  face  like?" 

"Her  face?  Yellow.  No  light  in  her  eyes- 
doesn't  find  life  in  a  strange  land  to  her  fancy,  I 
should  say.  And  what's  more,  girls,  she  wears 
.  ,  .  Prokofy's  trousers!" 

"No!"  the  women  drew  in  their  breath  to- 
gether. 

"I  saw  them  myself;  she  wears  trousers,  only 
without  stripes.  It  must  be  his  everyday  trou- 
sers she  has.  She  wears  a  long  shift,  and  under- 
neath you  can  see  the  trousers  stuffed  into  socks. 
When  I  saw  them  my  blood  ran  cold." 

The  whisper  went  round  the  village  that  Pro- 
kofy's wife  was  a  witch.  Astakhov's  daughter- 

14 


in^aw  (the  Astakhovs  were  Prokofy's  nearest 
neighbours)  swore  that  on  the  second  day  of 
Trinity,  before  dawn,  she  had  seen  Prokofy's 
wife,  barefoot,  her  hair  uncovered,  milking  the 
Astakhovs'  cow.  Since  then  its  udder  had  with- 
ered to  the  size  of  a  child's  fist,  the  cow  had 
lost  its  milk  and  died  soon  after. 

That  year  there  was  an  unusual  dying-off  of 
cattle.  By  the  shallows  of  the  Don  fresh  car- 
casses of  cows  and  young  bulls  appeared  on  the 
sandy  shore  every  day.  Then  the  horses  v/ere 
affected.  The  droves  grazing  on  the  village  pas- 
ture-lands melted  away.  And  through  the  lanes 
and  streets  of  the  village  crept  an  evil  rumour. 

The  Cossacks  held  a  meeting  and  went  to  Pro- 
kofy.  He  came  out  on  tlie  steps  of  his  house 
and  bowed. 

"What  can  I  do  for  you,  worthy  elders?" 

Dumbly  silent,  the  crowd  drew  nearer  to  the 
steps.  One  drunken  old  man  was  the  first  to  cry: 

"Drag  your  witch  out  here!  We're  going  to 
try  her.  .  .  ." 

Prokofy  flung  himself  back  into  the  house, 
but  they  caught  him  in  the  passage.  A  burly 
Cossack,  nicknamed  Lushnya,  knocked  his  head 
against  the  wall  and  told  him: 

"Don't  make  a  row,  there's  no  need  for  you  to 
shout.  We  shan't  touch  you,  but  we're  going  to 
trample  your  wife  into  the  ground.  Better  to  de- 

15 


stroy  her  than  have  all  the  village  die  for  want 
of  cattle.  But  don't  you  make  a  row,  or  I'll 
smash  the  wall  in  with  your  head!" 

"Drag  the  bitch  out  into  the  yard!"  came  a 
roar  from  the  steps.  A  regimental  comrade  of 
Prokofy's  wound  the  Turkish  woman's  hair 
around  one  hand,  clamped  his  other  hand  over 
her  screaming  mouth,  dragged  her  at  a  run  across 
the  porch  and  flung  her  under  the  feet  of  the 
crowd.  A  thin  shriek  rose  above  the  howl  of 
voices.  Prokofy  flung  off  half  a  dozen  Cossacks, 
burst  into  the  house,  and  snatched  a  sabre  from 
the  wall.  Jostling  against  one  another,  the  Cos- 
sacks rushed  out  of  the  house.  Swinging  the 
gleaming,  whistling  sabre  around  his  head, 
Prokofy  ran  down  the  steps.  The  crowd  drew 
back  and  scattered  over  the  yard. 

Lushnya  was  heavy  on  his  feet,  and  by  the 
threshing-floor  Prokofy  caught  up  with  hiin; 
with  a  diagonal  sweep  down  across  the  left 
shoulder  from  behind,  he  clave  the  Cossack's 
body  to  the  belt.  The  crowd,  who  had  been  tear- 
ing stakes  out  of  the  fence,  fell  back,  across  the 
threshing-floor  into  the  steppe. 

Half  an  hour  later  the  Cossacks  ventured  to 
approach  Prokofy's  farm  again.  Two  of  them 
stepped  cautiously  into  the  passaae,  O'l  the 
kitchen  threshold,  in  a  pool  of  bloci,  her  head 
flung  back  awkwardly,  lay  Prokofy  .   wif^;  her 

16 


lips  were  writhing  tormentedly,  her  gnawed 
tongue  protruded.  Prokofy,  with  shaking  head 
and  glassy  stare,  was  wrapping  a  squealing 
little  ball-the  prematurely-born  infant-in  a 
sheepskin. 

Prokofy's  wife  died  the  same  evening.  His  old 
mother  had  compassion  on  the  child  and  took 
charge  of  it.  They  plastered  it  with  bran-mash, 
fed  it  with  mare's  milk,  and,  after  a  month,  as- 
sured that  the  swarthy,  Turkish-looking  boy 
would  survive,  they  carried  him  to  church  and 
christened  him.  They  named  him  Pantelei  after 
his  grandfather.  Prokofy  came  back  from  penal 
servitude  twelve  years  later.  With  his  clipped, 
ruddy  beard  streaked  with  grey  and  his  Russian 
clothing,  he  did  not  look  like  a  Cossack.  He  took 
his  son  and  returned  to  his  farm. 

Pantelei  grew  up  swarthy,  and  ungovernable. 
In  face  and  figure  he  was  like  his  mother.  Pro- 
kofy married  him  to  the  daughter  of  a  Cossack 
neighbour. 

From  then  on  Turkish  blood  began  to  mingle 
with  that  of  the  Cossack,  And  that  was  how 
the  hook-nosed,  savagely  handsome  Cossack 
family  of  Melekhovs,  nicknamed  "Turks," 
came  into  the  village. 

When  his  father  died  Pantelei  took  over  the 
farm;  he  had  the  house  rethatched,  added  an 
acre  of  common  land  to  the  farmyard,  built  new 

2—1933  17 


sheds,  and  a  barn  with  a  sheet-iron  roof.  He  or- 
dered the  tinsmith  to  cut  a  couple  of  weather- 
cocks out  of  the  scrap  iron,  and  when  these 
were  set  up  on  the  roof  of  the  barn  they  bright- 
ened the  Melekhov  farmyard  with  their  care- 
free air,  giving  it  a  self-satisfied  and  prosperous 
appearance. 

Under  the  weight  of  the  passing  years  Pante- 
lei  Prokofyevich  grew  gnarled  and  craggy;  he 
broadened  and  acquired  a  stoop,  but  still  looked 
a  well-built  old  man.  He  was  dry  of  bone,  and 
lame  (in  his  youth  he  had  broken  his  leg  while 
hurdling  at  an  Imperial  Review  of  troops),  he 
wore  a  silver  half-moon  ear-ring  in  his  left  ear, 
and  his  beard  and  hair  retained  their  vivid  ra- 
ven hue  until  old  age.  When  angry,  he  complete- 
ly lost  control  of  himself  and  undoubtedly  this 
had  prematurely  aged  his  buxom  wife,  whose 
face,  once  beautiful,  was  now  a  perfect  spider- 
web  of  furrows. 

Pyotr,  his  elder,  married  son,  took  after  his 
mother:  stocky  and  snub-nosed,  a  luxuriant 
shock  of  corn-coloured  hair,  hazel  eyes.  But  the 
younger,  Grigory,  was  like  his  father:  half  a 
head  taller  than  Pyotr,  some  six  years  younger, 
the  same  pendulous  hawk  nose  as  his  father's, 
the  whites  of  his  burning  eyes  bluish  in  their 
slightly  oblique  slits;  brown,  ruddy  skin  drawn 
tight  over  angular  cheek-bones.  Grigory  stooped 

18 


slightly,  just  like  his  father;  even  in  his  smile 
there  was  a  similar,  rather  savage  quality. 

Dunya-her  father's  favourite-a  lanky  large- 
eyed  lass,  and  Pyotr's  wife,  Darya,  with  her 
small  child,  completed  the  Melekhov  household. 


II 


Here  and  there  stars  still  hovered  in  the 
ashen,  early  morning  sky.  The  wind  blew  from 
under  a  bank  of  cloud.  A  mist  rolled  high  over 
the  Don,  piling  against  the  slope  of  a  chalky 
hill,  and  creeping  into  the  gullies  like  a  grey, 
headless  serpent.  The  left  bank  of  the  river,  the 
sands,  the  wooded  backwaters,  the  reedy 
marshes,  the  dewy  trees,  flamed  in  the  cold, 
ecstatic  light  of  dawn.  Below  the  horizon  the 
sun  smouldered,  and  rose  not. 

In  the  Melekhov  house  Pantelei  Prokofyevich 
was  the  first  to  awake.  Buttoning  the  collar  of 
his  embroidered  shirt,  he  walked  out  on  to  the 
steps.  The  grassy  yaid  was  spread  with  a  dewy 
silver.  He  let  the  cattle  out  into  the  street.  Darya 
ran  past  in  her  shift  to  milk  the  cows.  The  dew 
sprinkled  over  the  calves  of  her  bare  white  legs, 
and  she  left  a  smoking,  flattened  trail  behind 
her  over  the  grass  of  the  yard.  Pantelei  Proko- 
fyevich stood  for  a  moment  watching  the  grass 

2*  19 


rise  from  the  pressure  of  Darya's  feet  then 
lurned  back  into  the  best  room. 

On  the  sill  of  the  wide-open  window  lay  the 
dead  rose  petals  of  the  cherry-trees  blossoming 
in  the  front  garden.  Grigory  lay  asleep  face 
downward,  one  arm  flung  out  sideways. 

"Grigory,  coming  fishing?" 

"What?"  Grigory  asked  in  a  whisper,  drop- 
ping his  legs  off  the  bed. 

"Come  out  and  fish  till  sunrise." 

Breathing  heavily  through  his  nose,  Grigory 
pulled  his  everyday  trousers  down  from  a  peg, 
drew  them  on,  tucked  the  legs  into  his  white 
woollen  socks,  and  slowly  put  on  his  sandals, 
straightening   out  the   trodden-down   heel. 

"But  has  Mother  boiled  the  bait?"  he  asked 
hoarsely,  as  he  followed  his  father  into  the 
porch. 

"Yes.  Go  to  the  boat.  I'll  come  in  a  minute." 

The  old  man  poured  the  strong-smelling, 
boiled  rye  into  a  jug,  carefully  swept  up  the 
fallen  grains  into  his  palm,  and  limped  down 
to  the  beach.  He  found  his  son  sitting  hunched 
in  the  boat. 

"Where  shall  we  go?" 

"To  the  Black  Bank.  We'll  try  around  the  log 
where  we  were  sitting  the  other  day." 

Its  stern  scraping  the  ground,  the  boat  broke 
away  from  the  shore  and  settled  into  the  water. 

20 


The  current  carried  it  off,  rocking  it  and  trying 
to  turn  it  broadside  on.  Grigory  steered  with 
the  oar,  but  did  not  row. 

"Why  aren't  you  rowing?" 

"Let's  get  out  into  midstream  first." 

Cutting  across  the  swift  mainstream  current, 
the  boat  moved  towards  the  left  bank.  The  crow- 
ing of  the  village  cocks  rang  out  after  them 
across  the  water.  Its  side  scraping  the  black, 
craggy  bank  rising  high  above  the  river,  the 
boat  slid  into  the  pool  below.  Some  forty  feet 
from  the  bank  the  twisted  branches  of  a  sunken 
elm  emerged  from  the  water.  Around  it  turbu- 
lent flecks  of  foam  eddied  and  swirled. 

"Get  the  line  ready  while  I  scatter  the  bait," 
Pantelei  whispered.  He  thrust  his  hand  into  the 
steaming  mouth  of  the  jug.  The  rye  scattered 
audibly  over  the  water,  like  a  whispered 
"Sh-sh."  Grigory  threaded  swollen  grains  on  a 
hook,  and  smiled. 

"Come  on,  you  fish!  Little  ones  and  big  ones 
too." 

The  line  fell  in  spirals  into  the  water  and  taut- 
ened, then  slackened  again.  Grigory  set  his  foot 
on  the  end  of  the  rod  and  fumbled  cautiously 
for  his  pouch. 

"We'll  have  no  luck  today.  Father.  The  moon 
is  on  the  wane." 

"Bring  any  matches?" 

81 


"Uh-huh." 

"Give  me  a  light." 

The  old  man  began  to  smoke,  and  glanced  at 
the  sun,  stranded  beyond  the  elm. 

"You  can't  tell  when  a  carp  will  bite/'  he  re- 
plied. "Sometimes  he  will  when  the  moon  is 
waning." 

"Looks  as  if  the  small  fish  are  nipping  the 
bait,"  Grigory  sighed. 

The  water  slapped  noisily  against  the  sides  of 
the  boat,  and  a  four-foot  carp,  gleaming  as 
though  cast  from  ruddy  copper,  leaped  upward 
with  a  groan,  threshing  the  water  with  its  broad, 
curving  tail.  Big  drops  of  spray  scattered  over 
the  boat. 

"Wait  now!"  Pantelei  wiped  his  wet  beard 
with  his  sleeve.  ' 

Near  the  sunken  tree,  among  the  branching, 
naked  boughs,  two  carp  leaped  simultaneously; 
a  third,  smaller,  writhed  in  the  air,  and  flapped 
stubbornly  close  to  the  bank. 

Grigory  impatiently  chewed  the  wet  end  of 
his  cigarette.  The  misty  sun  was  half  up.  Pan- 
telei scattered  the  rest  of  the  bait,  and,  glumly 
pursing  his  lips,  gazed  stolidly  at  the  motion- 
less end  of  the  rod. 

Grigory  spat  out  the  stub  of  his  cigarette, 
watching  its  rapid  flight  angrily.  Inwardly  he 
was  cursing  his  father  for  waking  him  so  early. 

22 


Smoking  on  an  empty  stomach  had  made  his 
mouth  reek  like  burnt  bristles.  He  was  about  to 
bend  and  scoop  up  some  water  in  his  palm,  but 
at  that  moment  the  end  of  the  rod  jerked  feebly 
and  began  to  sink. 

"Hook  him!"  the  old  man  breathed. 

Grigory  started  up  and  grabbed  the  rod,  but 
it  bent  in  an  arc  from  his  hand,  and  the  end 
plunged  into  the  water. 

"Hold  him!"  Pantelei  groaned,  as  he  pushed 
the  boat  off  from  the  bank. 

Grigory  attempted  to  lift  the  rod,  but  the  fish 
was  too  strong  and  the  stout  line  snapped  with 
a  dry  crack.  Grigory  staggered  and  almost 
fell. 

"Strong  as  a  bull!"  his  father  whispered,  try- 
ing to  jab  a  hook  into  some  fresh  bait  but  miss- 
ing it.  With  an  excited  laugh  Grigory  fastened 
a  new  line  to  the  rod,  and  made  a  cast.  Hardly 
had  the  lead  touched  the  bottom  when  the  end 
of  the  rod  bent. 

"That's  him,  the  devil,"  Grigory  grunted, 
with  difficulty  holding  in  the  fish,  which  was 
making  for  midstrccim. 

The  line  cut  the  water  with  a  loud  swish,  rais- 
ing a  sloping,  greenish  rampart  behind  it.  Pan- 
telei fumbled  with  the  bailer  handle  in  his 
stumpy  fingers. 

"Take  care  he  doesn't  snap  the  line." 

23 


"Don't  worry," 

A  great  red  and  yellow  carp  rose  to  the  sur- 
face, lashed  the  water  into  foam,  and  dived  back 
into  the  depths. 

"He's  pulling  my  arm  off!  No,  you  don't!" 

"Hold  him,  Grisha!" 

"I  am  holding  him!" 

"Don't  let  him  get  under  the  boat!" 

Taking  breath,  Grigory  drew  the  played-out 
carp  towards  the  boat.  The  old  man  thrust  out 
the  bailer,  but  with  its  last  strength  the  carp 
again  plunged  into  the  depths. 

"Get  his  head  up!  Make  him  swallow  some 
air,  that'll  quiet  him!"  Pantelei  ordered. 

Once  more  Grigory  drew  the  exhausted  fish 
towards  the  boat.  It  floated  open-mouthed  with 
its  nose  against  the  rough  gunwale,  its  orange- 
golden  fins  flickering. 

"He's  finished!"  Pantelei  croaked,  lifting  the 
fish  in  the  bailer. 

They  sat  on  for  another  half  hour.  The  carp 
stopped  leaping. 

"Wind  in  the  line.  We've  had  our  catch  for 
today!"  the  old  man  said  at  last. 

Grigory  pushed  off  from  the  bank.  As  he 
rowed  he  saw  from  his  father's  face  that  he 
wanted  to  say  something,  but  Pantelei  sat  si- 
lently gazing  at  the  houses  of  the  village  scat- 
tered under  the  hill. 

24 


"Look  here,  Grigory .  .  ."  he  began  uncertain- 
ly, pulling  at  the  knot  of  the  sack  under  his  feet. 
"I've  noticed  that  you  and  Aksinya  Astakho- 
va. . . ." 

Grigory  flushed  violently,  and  turned  away. 
His  shirt  collar  cut  into  his  muscular,  sunburnt 
neck,  pressing  out  a  white  band  in  the  flesh. 

"You  watch  out,  young  fellow,"  the  old  man 
continued,  now  roughly  and  angrily,  "or  I'll  be 
having  another  kind  of  talk  with  you.  Stepan's 
our  neighbour,  and  I  won't  have  any  mucking 
about  with  his  woman.  That  kind  of  thing  can 
lead  to  mischief,  and  I  warn  you  beforehand,  if 
I  see  you  at  it  I'll  flay  the  hide  off  you!" 

Pantelei  clenched  his  gnarled  fist,  and  with 
narrowed  eyes  watched  the  blood  ebbing  from 
his  son's  face. 

"It's  all  lies!"  Grigory  muttered,  and  gazed 
straight  at  the  bluish  bridge  of  his  father's  nose. 

"You  keep  quiet." 

"People  like  to  talk-" 

"Hold  your  tongue,  you  son  of  a  bitch!" 

Grigory  bent  to  the  oars.  The  boat  leapt  for- 
ward. The  bubbling  water  danced  away  from 
the  stern  in  little  scrolls. 

They  remained  silent  until,  as  they  were  ap- 
proaching the  shore,  his  father  reminded  him: 

"Mind  what  I've  said,   or  from  now  on  I'll 

25 


stop  your  going  out  at  night.  You  won't  stir  a 
step  outside  the  yard!" 

Grigory  made  no  answer.  As  he  beached  the 
boat  he  asked: 

"Shall  I  give  the  fish  to  the  women?" 

"Go  and  sell  it,"  the  old  man  said  more  gen- 
tly. "You  can  have  the  money  for  tobacco." 

Biting  his  lips,  Grigory  followed  his  father. 
"Try  it.  Dad!  I'm  going  out  tonight  even  if  you 
hobble  my  feet!"  he  thought,  his  eyes  boring 
fiercely  into  the  back  of  the  old  man's  head. 

When  he  got  home  Grigory  carefully  washed 
the  sand  off  the  fish  and  fixed  a  twig  through 
its  gills. 

At  the  farm  gate  he  ran  into  his  old  friend 
Mitka  Korshunov.  Mitka  was  strolling  along, 
toying  with  the  end  of  his  silver-studded  belt. 
His  round,  yellow  eyes  glistened  impudently  in 
their  narrow  slits.  Mitka's  pupils  were  long,  like 
a  cat's,  making  his  glance  swift  and  elusive. 

"Where  are  you  off  to  with  the  fish?" 

"We  caught  it  today.  I'm  going  to  sell  it." 

"To  Mokhov?" 

"Uh-huh." 

Mitka  estimated  the  weight  of  the  fish  with  a 
glance. 

"Fifteen  pounds?" 

"Fifteen  and  a  half.  We  weighed  it  on  the 
scales." 

26 


"Take  me  with  you.  I'll  do  the  bargaining." 

"Come  on." 

"And  what  do  I  get?" 

"You  needn't  fear.  We  shan't  quarrel  over 
that." 

Church  was  over,  and  the  villagers  were  fill- 
ing the  streets.  The  three  Shamil  brothers 
came  striding  down  the  road  side  by  side.  The 
eldest,  one-armed  Alexei,  was  in  the  middle.  The 
tight  collar  of  his  army  tunic  held  his  sinewy 
neck  erect,  his  thin,  curly,  pointed  little  beard 
twisted  provokingly  sideways,  his  left  eye 
winked  nervously.  His  carbine  had  exploded  in 
his  hands  at  the  shooting  range  many  years 
previously,  and  a  piece  of  the  flying  iron  had 
ploughed  into  his  cheek.  Now  his  left  eye  winked 
in  season  and  out  of  season,  and  a  blue  scar  ran 
across  his  cheek,  burying  itself  in  his  tow-like 
hair.  His  left  arm  had  been  torn  off  at  the  el- 
bow, but  Alexei  was  a  past  master  at  rolling  a 
cigarette  with  one  hand.  He  would  press  his 
pouch  against  his  chest,  tear  off  the  right  quan- 
tity of  paper  with  his  teeth,  bend  it  into  a 
trough-shape,  rake  up  the  tobacco,  roll  the  cig- 
arette and  almost  before  you  realized  what  he 
was  doing,  he  would  be  asking  you  for  a  light. 

Although  he  was  one-armed  he  was  the  finest 
fighter  in  the  village.  His  fist  was  not  particular- 
ly large  as  fists  go-about  the  size  of  a  calabash 

27 


-but  he  had  once  happened  to  get  annoyed  with 
his  bullock  when  ploughing,  and  being  without 
his  whip,  gave  it  a  blow  with  his  fist  that 
stretched  the  bullock  out  over  the  furrows, 
blood  streaming  from  its  ears.  And  it  hardly 
recovered.  The  other  brothers,  Martin  and 
Prokhor,  resembled  Alexei  down  to  the  last 
detail.  They  were  just  as  stocky  and  broad- 
shouldered,  only  each  had  two  arms. 

Grigory  greeted  the  Shamils,  but  Mitka 
walked  on,  turning  his  head  aside  sharply.  At 
the  fisticuffs  during  Shrovetide,  Alexei  Shamil 
had  shown  no  regard  for  Mitka's  youthful  teeth. 
With  a  powerful  swing,  he  had  struck  him  in 
the  mouth,  and  Mitka  had  spat  out  two  good 
teeth  on  the  grey-blue  ice,  scarred  by  the  tram- 
pling of  iron-shod  heels. 

As  he  came  up  to  them,  Alexei  winked  five 
times. 

"Selling  your  load?" 

"Want  to  buy  it?" 

"How  much?" 

"A  couple  of  bullocks,  and  a  wife  thrown  in." 

Screwing  up  his  eyes,  Alexei  jerked  the  stump 
of  his  arm. 

"You're  a  card!  Haw-haw!  A  wife  thrown  in! 
Will  you  take  the  brats,  too?" 

"Leave  yourself  some  for  breeding,  or  the 
Shamils  will  die  out!"  Grigory  grinned. 

2^ 


In  the  square  the  villagers  were  gathered 
around  the  fence  of  the  church.  The  church 
warden  was  holding  a  goose  above  his  head 
and  shouting:  "Going  for  fifty  kopecks.  Any 
more  offers?" 

The  goose  craned  its  neck  and  peered  round, 
its  beady  eye  squinting  contemptuously. 

In  the  middle  of  a  ring  of  people  a  grizzled 
old  man,  his  chest  covered  with  crosses  and 
medals,  stood  brandishing  his  arms. 

"Old  Grishaka  is  telling  one  of  his  tales  about 
the  Turkish  war,"  Mitka  said,  nodding  towards 
the  ring.  "Let's  go  and  listen." 

"While  we're  listening  to  him  the  carp  will 
start  stinking  and  swell." 

"If  it  swells  it'll  weigh  more." 

In  the  square  beyond  the  firecart  shed  rose 
the  green  roof  of  the  Mokhov's  house.  Passing 
the  outhouse,  Grigory  spat  and  held  his  nose. 
From  behind  a  barrel,  an  old  man  emerged,  but- 
toning up  his  trousers,  and  holding  his  belt  in 
his  teeth. 

"Hard  pressed?"  asked  Mitka  ironically. 

The  old  man  buttoned  up  the  last  button,  and 
took  the  belt  out  of  his  mouth. 

"What's  it  got  to  do  with  you?" 

"Your  nose  ought  to  be  stuck  in  it,  or  your 
beard;  so  that  your  old  woman  wouldn't  be  able 
to  wash  it  off  in  a  week." 

29 


"I'll  stick  you  in  it,"  said  the  old  man,  offend- 
ed. 

Mitka  screwed  up  his  cat's  eyes  in  the  sun's 
glare. 

"Aren't  you  touchy!" 

"Get  out,  you  son  of  a  bitch.  Why  are  you 
bothering  me?  Do  you  want  a  taste  of  my  belt?" 

Laughing  quietly  Grigory  approached  the 
steps.  The  balustrade  was  richly  fretted  with 
wild  vine.  The  steps  were  speckled  with  lazy 
shadows. 

"See  how  some  folk  live,  Mitka!" 

"Even  the  door-handle's  got  gold  on  it!" 
Mitka  sniffed  as  he  opened  the  door  leading  to 
the  verandah.  "Imagine  that  old  fellow  getting 
in  here.  .  .  ." 

"Who's  there?"  someone  called  from  the  other 
side  of  the  door. 

Grigory  entered  shyly.  The  carp's  tail  trailed 
over  the  painted  floor-boards. 

"Whom  do  you  want?" 

A  girl  was  sitting  in  a  wicker  rocking-chair, 
a  dish  of  strawberries  in  her  hand.  Grigory 
stared  silently  at  the  full,  rosy,  heart-shaped 
lips  embracing  a  berry.  With  her  head  on  one 
side  the  girl  looked  the  lads  up  and  down. 

Mitka  came  to  Grigory's  rescue.  He  coughed. 

"Want  to  buy  some  fish?" 

"Fish?  I'll  go  and  ask." 

30 


She  rocked  the  chair  upright,  and  rising  pad- 
ded away  in  her  embroidered  slippers.  The  sun 
shone  through  her  white  dress,  and  Mitka  saw 
the  dim  outline  of  full  legs  and  the  broad,  bil- 
lowing lace  of  her  underskirt.  He  was  aston- 
ished at  the  satiny  whiteness  of  her  bare  calves; 
only  on  the  small  round  heels  was  the  skin 
milkily  yellow. 

"Look,  Grisha,  what  a  dress !  Like  glass !  You 
can  see  everything  through  it,"  he  said,  nudging 
Grigory. 

The  girl  came  back  through  the  door  leading 
to  the  corridor,  and  sat  down  gently  on  the 
chair. 

"Go  into  the  kitchen!" 

Grigory  tiptoed  into  the  house.  When  he  had 
gone  Mitka  stood  blinking  at  the  white  thread 
of  the  parting  that  divided  the  girl's  hair  into 
two  golden  half-circles.  She  studied  him  with 
mischievous,  restless  eyes. 

"Are  you  from  the  village?" 

"Yes." 

"Whose  son  are  you?" 

"Korshunov's." 

"And  what's  your  name?" 

"Mitry!" 

She  examined  her  rosy  nails  attentively,  and 
with  a  swift  movement  tucked  up  her  legs. 

"Which  of  you  caught  the  fish?" 

3t 


"My  friend  Grigory." 

"And  do  you  fish,  too?" 

"When  I  feel  like  it." 

"With  hook  and  line?" 

"Yes." 

"I'd  like  to  go  fishing  some  time,"  she  said, 
after  a  pause. 

"All  right,  I'll  take  you  if  you  want  to." 

"Really?  How  can  we  arrange  it?" 

"You'll  have  to  get  up  very  early." 

"I'll  get  up,  only  you'll  have  to  wake  me." 

"I  can  do  that.  But  how  about  your  father?" 

"What  about  my  father?" 

Mitka  laughed.  "He  might  take  me  for  a  thief 
and  set  the  dogs  on  me." 

"Nonsense!  I  sleep  alone  in  the  corner 
room.  That's  the  window."  She  pointed.  "If 
you  come  for  me,  knock  at  the  window  and 
I'll  get  up," 

The  sound  of  Grigory's  timid  voice,  and  the 
thick,  oily  tones  of  the  cook  came  intermittently 
from  the  kitchen.  Mitka  was  silent,  fingering 
the  tarnished  silver  of  his  belt. 

"Are  you  married?"  she  asked  hiding  a  smile. 

"Why?" 

"Oh,  I'm  just  curious." 

"No,  I'm  single." 

Mitka  suddenly  blushed,  and  she,  smiling 
coquettishly  and  playing  with  a  twig  from  the 

32 


hot-house  strawberries  scattered  over  the  floor, 
asked: 

"And  do  the  girls  like  you,  Mitka?" 

"Some  do,  some  don't." 

"Really,  ,  .  .  And  why  have  you  got  eyes  like 
a  cat?" 

"A  cat?"  Mitka  was  now  completely  abashed. 

"Yes,  that's  just  it,  they're  cat's  eyes." 

"Must  have  got  them  from  my  mother.  I  can't 
help  it." 

"And  why  don't  they  marry  you  off,  Mitka?" 

Mitka  recovered  from  his  momentary  con- 
fusion, and  sensing  the  hidden  sneer  in  her 
words,  let  a  glitter  appear  in  the  yellow  of 
his  eyes. 

"The  cock  must  grow  before  it  finds  a  hen." 

She  raised  her  eyebrows  in  astonishment, 
flushed,  and  rose  from  her  seat.  There  was  a 
sound  of  footsteps  ascending  the  steps  from  the 
street.  Her  fleeting  smile  lashed  Mitka  like  a 
nettle. 

Shuffling  softly  in  his  capacious  kid  boots,  the 
master  of  the  house,  Sergei  Platonovich  Mo- 
khov,  carried  his  corpulent  body  with  dignity 
past  Mitka. 

"Want  me?"  he  asked  as  he  passed,  without 
turning  his  head. 

"They've  brought  some  fish.  Papa." 

Grigory  appeared  without  his  carp, 

3—1933  33 


Ill 

The  first  cock  had  crowed  when  Grigory  re- 
turned from  his  evening  out.  From  the  porch 
came  the  scent  of  sour  hops,  and  the  spicy  per- 
fume of  stitchwort. 

He  tiptoed  into  the  room,  undressed,  carefully 
hung  up  his  Sunday  trousers,  crossed  himself 
and  lay  down.  There  was  a  golden  pool  of 
moonlight  on  the  floor,  criss-crossed  by  the 
shadow  of  the  window-frame.  In  the  corner  the 
silver  of  the  icons  gleamed  dully  under  em- 
broidered towels,  from  the  shelf  over  the  bed 
came  the  droning  hum  of  agitated  flies. 

He  would  have  fallen  asleep,  but  in  the 
kitchen  his  brother's  child  started  to  cry.  The 
cradle  creaked  like  an  ungreased  cartwheel.  He 
heard  his  brother's  wife  Darya  mutter  in  a 
sleepy  voice:  "Go  to  sleep,  you  little  brat!  You 
don't  give  me  a  moment's  peace!"  And  she  be- 
gan crooning  softly  to  the  child: 

Oh,  where  have  you  been? 
I've  been  watching  the  horses. 
And  luhat  did  you  see? 
A  horse  luith  a  saddle 
All  fringed  with  gold.  . . . 

As  he  dozed  off  with  the  steady,  soothing 
creak  in  his  ears,  Grigory  remembered:  "Tomor- 
row Pyotr  goes  off  to  the  camp.  Darya  will  be 

34 


left  with  the  baby.  .  .  .  We'll  have  to  do  the  mow- 
ing without  him." 

He  buried  his  head  in  his  hot  pillow,  but  the 
chant  seeped  persistently  into  his  ears: 

And  where  is  your  horse? 
Outside  the  gate. 
And  where  is  the  gate? 
Swept  away  by  the  flood. 

He  was  aroused  from  sleep  by  lusty  neigh- 
ing. By  its  tone  he  recognized  Pyotr's  army 
horse.  His  sleep-numbed  fingers  were  slow  in 
buttoning  up  his  shirt,  and  he  almost  dropped 
off  again  under  the  flowing  rhythm  of  Darya's 
song. 

And  where  are  the  geese? 

They've  gone  into  the  reeds. 

And  where  are  the  reeds? 

The  girls  have  mown  them. 

And  where  are  the  girls? 

The  girls  have  taken  husbands. 

And  where  are  the  Cossacks? 

They've  gone  to  the  war. 

Rubbing  his  eyes,  Grigory  made  his  way  to 
the  stable  and  led  Pyotr's  horse  out  into  the 
street.  A  floating  cobweb  tickled  his  face,  and 
his  drowsiness  unexpectedly  left  him. 

Slanting  across  the  Don  lay  the  wavy  never- 
ridden  track  of  the  moonlight.  Over  the  river 

3*  S5 


hung  a  mist,  and  above  it,  the  stars,  like  sprin- 
kled grain.  The  horse  set  its  hoofs  down  cau- 
tiously. The  slope  to  the  water  was  hard  going. 
From  the  farther  side  of  the  river  came  the 
quacking  of  ducks.  A  sheat-fish  jumped  with  a 
splash  in  the  muddy  shallows  by  the  bank,  hunt- 
ing at  random  for  smaller  fry. 

Grigory  stood  a  long  time  by  the  river.  The 
bank  exuded  a  dank  and  musty  rottenness.  A 
tiny  drop  of  water  fell  from  the  horse's  lips. 
There  was  a  light,  pleasant  void  in  Grigory' s 
heart,  he  felt  good  and  free  from  thought.  As 
he  walked  back,  he  glanced  towards  the  east, 
where  the  blue  murk  was  already  clearing. 

By  the  stable  he  ran  into  his  mother. 

"Is  that  you,  Grisha?" 

"And  who  do  you  think  it  is?" 

"Watered  the  horse?" 

"Yes,"  he  answered  shortly. 

His  mother  waddled  away  with  an  apronful 
of  dried  dung  fuel,  her  bare  withered  feet  slap- 
ping on  the  ground. 

"You  might  go  and  wake  up  the  Astakhovs. 
Stepan  said  he  would  go  with  our  Pyotr." 

The  morning  rawness  set  a  spring  stiffly 
quivering  in  Grigory.  His  body  tingled  with 
prickles.  He  ran  up  the  three  echoing  steps 
leading  to  the  Astakhovs'  house.  The  door  was 
unlatched.  Stepan  was  asleep  on  an  outspread 

36 


rug  in  the  kitchen,  his  wife's  head  resting  on 
his  arm. 

In  the  greying  dawn  light  Grigory  saw  Ak- 
sinya's  shift  rumpled  above  her  knees,  and  her 
unashamedly  parted  legs  white  as  birch  bark. 
For  a  moment  he  stood  gazing,  feeling  his 
mouth  going  dry  and  his  head  bursting  with  an 
iron  clangour. 

He  shifted  his  eyes  stealthily.  In  a  strange, 
hoarse  voice  he  called: 

"Hey!  Anyone  here?  Get  up." 

Aksinya  gave  a  sob  of  waking. 

"Oh,  who's  that?"  She  hurriedly  began  to 
fumble  with  her  shift,  drawing  it  over  her  legs. 
A  little  drop  of  spittle  was  left  on  her  pillow; 
a  woman's  sleep  is  sound  at  dawn. 

"It's  me.  Mother  sent  me  to  wake  you  up." 

"We'll  be  up  in  a  minute.  We're  sleeping  on 
the  floor  because  of  the  fleas.  Stepan,  get  up, 
d'you  hear?"  By  her  voice  Grigory  guessed  that 
she  felt  embarrassed  and  he  hastened  to  leave. 

Thirty  Cossacks  were  going  from  the  village 
to  the  May  training  camp.  Just  before  seven 
o'clock  wagons  with  tarpaulin  covers,  Cossacks 
on  foot  and  on  horseback,  in  homespun  shirts 
and  carrying  their  equipment,  began  to  stream 
towards  the  square. 

Pyotr  was  standing  on  the  steps,  hurriedly 
stitching  a  broken  rein. 

37 


Pantelei  stamped  about  round  Pyotr's  horse, 
pouring  oats  into  the  trough.  Every  now  and 
then  he  shouted: 

"Dunya,  have  you  put  the  rusks  in  the  sack 
yet?  Have  you  salted  the  bacon?" 

Dunya,  rosy  and  blooming,  flew  to  and  fro 
like  a  swallow  and  answered  her  father's 
shouts  with  a  laugh: 

"You  look  after  your  own  affairs.  Father,  and 
I'll  pack  for  Brother  so  well  that  nothing  will 
budge  till  he  reaches  Cherkassk."* 

"Not  finished  eating  yet?"  Pyotr  asked,  nod- 
ding towards  the  horse. 

"Not  yet,"  his  father  replied  deliberately, 
testing  the  saddle-cloth  with  his  rough  palm. 
One  little  crumb  sticking  to  the  cloth  can  chafe 
a  horse's  back  into  a  sore  in  a  single  march. 

"When  he's  done  eating,  water  him.  Father." 

"Grisha  will  take  him  down  to  the  Don," 

Grigory  took  the  tall,  rawboned  Don  horse 
with  a  white  blaze  on  its  forehead,  led  it  out 
through  the  gate,  and  resting  his  left  hand 
lightly  on  its  withers,  vaulted  on  to  its  back 
and  went  off  at  a  swinging  trot.  He  tried  to 
rein  the  horse  in  at  the  descent  to  the  river, 
but  the  animal  stumbled,  quickened  its  pace, 
and  flew  down  the  slope.  Leaning  back  until  he 

*  Novocherkassk. 

88 


almost  lay  along  the  animal's  spine,  Grigory 
saw  a  woman  with  pails  going  down  the  hill. 
He  turned  sharply  off  the  path  and  dashed  into 
the  water,  leaving  a  cloud  of  dust  behind  him. 

Aksinya  came  swinging  down  the  slope. 
When  still  some  distance  away  she  shouted  to 
him: 

"You  mad  devil!  You  almost  rode  me  down. 
You  wait,  I'll  tell  your  father  how  you  ride." 

"Now,  neighbour,  don't  get  angry.  When 
you've  seen  your  husband  off  to  camp  maybe 
I'll  be  useful  on  your  farm." 

"How  the  devil  could  you  be  useful  to  me?" 

"You'll  be  asking  me  when  mowing  time 
comes,"  Grigory  laughed. 

Aksinya  dexterously  drew  a  full  pail  of 
water  from  the  river,  and  pressed  her  skirt 
between  her  knees  away  from  the  wind. 

"Is  your  Stepan  ready  yet?"  Grigory  asked. 

"What's  that  to  do  with  you?" 

"What  a  spitfire!  Can't  I  ask?" 

"He  is,  what  of  it?" 

"So  you'll  be  left  a  grass-widow?" 

"Yes." 

The  horse  raised  its  lips  from  the  water,  and 
stood  gazing  across  the  Don,  its  fore-feet  tread- 
ing the  stream.  Aksinya  filled  her  second  pail, 
hoisted  the  yoke  across  her  shoulders,  and 
with  a  swinging  stride    set  off    up    the    slope. 

39 


Grigory  turned  the  horse  and  followed  her.  The 
wind  fluttered  her  skirt  and  played  with  the 
fine,  fluffy  curls  on  her  swarthy  neck.  Her  flat, 
embroidered  cap  flamed  on  her  heavy  knot  of 
hair,  her  rose-coloured  shift,  gathered  into  her 
skirt  at  the  waist,  clung  smoothly  to  her  steep 
back  and  compact  shoulders.  As  she  climbed 
the  slope  she  bent  forward,  and  the  hollow  be- 
tween her  shoulders  showed  clearly  beneath  her 
shift.  He  saw  the  brownish  rings  under  her 
arms,  where  her  shift  was  stained  with  sweat. 
Grigory  watched  her  ever^^  movement.  He 
wanted  to  renew  the  talk  with  her. 

"You'll    be    missing     your    husband,    won't 


you 


?" 


Without  halting  Aksinya  turned  her  head 
and  smiled. 

"Of  course  I  shall.  Get  married  yourself," 
she  caught  her  breath  and  went  on  jerkily, 
"then  you'll  know  whether  you  miss  your  dar- 
ling or  not." 

Grigory  brought  the  horse  level  with  her  and 
looked  into  her  eyes. 

"But  other  wives  are  glad  when  their  hus- 
bands go.  Our  Darya  will  grow  fat  without  her 
Pyotr." 

Aksinya's  nostrils  quivered  and  she  breathed 
hard. 

"A  husband's  not  a  leech,  but  he  sucks  your 

40 


blood  all  the  same."  She  pushed  her  hair 
straight.  "Shall  we  be  seeing  you  married 
soon?" 

"I  don't  know,  it  depends  on  Father.  After 
my  army  service,  I  suppose." 

"You're  still  young;  don't  get  married." 

"Why  not?" 

"It  dries  you  up."  She  looked  up  from  under 
her  brows,  and  smiled  cheerlessly  without  part- 
ing her  lips.  For  the  first  time  Grigory  noticed 
that  her  lips  were  shamelessly  greedy  and  rath- 
er swollen.  Stranding  the  horse's  mane  with  his 
fingers,  he  replied: 

"I  don't  want  to  get  married.  Someone  will 
love  me  without  that." 

"Have  you  noticed  anyone,  then?" 

"What  should  I  notice?  Now  you're  seeing 
your  Stepan  off.  .  .?" 

"Don't  try  to  play  about  with  me!" 

"What  will  you  do  about  it?" 

"I'll  tell  Stepan." 

"I'll  show  your  Stepan.  .  .  ." 

"You're  so  cocksure,  mind  you  don't  cry 
first." 

"Don't  try  to  scare  me,  Aksinya!" 

"I'm  not  trying  to  scare  you.  You  hang 
around  with  the  girls,  let  them  hem  your  han- 
kies for  you,  but  keep  your  eyes  off  me," 

"I'll  look  at  you  all  the  more  now." 

4J 


"Well,  look  then." 

Aksinya  gave  him  a  conciliatory  smile  and 
left  the  path,  trying  to  pass  the  horse.  Grigory 
turned  the  animal  sideways  and  blocked  the 
way. 

"Let  me  pass,  Grisha."  | 

"I  won't." 

"Don't  be  a  fool.  I  must  see  to  my  husband." 

Grigory  smilingly  teased  the  horse,  and  it 
edged  Aksinya  towards  the  bank. 

"Let  me  pass,  you  devil!  There  are  some  peo- 
ple over  there.  If  they  see  us  what  will  they 
think?"   she  muttered. 

She  swept  a  frightened  glance  around  and 
passed  by,  frowning  and  without  a  backward 
glance. 

Pyotr  was  saying  good-bye  to  his  family  on 
the  steps.  Grigory  saddled  the  horse.  His  broth- 
er, holding  his  sabre  to  his  side,  hurried 
down  the  steps  and  took  the  reins.  Scenting  the 
road,  the  horse  fretted  and  chewed  the  bit. 
With  one  foot  in  the  stirrup,  Pyotr  said  to  his 
father : 

"Don't  overwork  the  baldheads.  Father.  In 
the  autumn  we'll  sell  them.  Grigory  will  need 
a  horse  for  the  army,  you  know.  And  don't 
sell  the  steppe  grass;  you  know  yourself  what 
hay  we're  likely  to  get  in  the  meadow  this 
year." 

42 


"Well,  God  be  with  you.  Good  luck,"  the  old 
man  replied,   crossing  himself. 

Pyotr  swung  his  firm  body  into  the  saddle, 
and  adjusted  the  folds  of  his  shirt  in  his  belt 
at  the  back.  The  horse  moved  towards  the  gate. 
The  sabre  swung  rhythmically,  its  pommel 
glittering  dully  in  the  sun. 

Darya  followed  with  the  child  on  her  arm. 
Wiping  her  eyes  with  her  sleeve  and  her  nose 
with  the  corner  of  her  apron,  his  mother,  Ilyi- 
nichna,  stood  in  the  middle  of  the  yard. 

"Brother!  The  pasties!  You've  forgotten  the 
pasties!  The  potato  pasties!"  Dunya  dashed  to 
the  gate. 

"What  are  you  bawling  for,  you  fool!"  Gri- 
gory  snapped  irritably. 

"He's  left  his  pasties  behind,"  she  moaned, 
leaning  against  the  gate-post,  and  tears  ran 
down  her  burning  cheeks  on  to  her  blouse. 

Darya  stood  gazing  under  her  hand  after  her 
husband's  white  shirt  through  the  screen  of 
dust.  Old  Pantelei  jerked  the  rotting  gate-post 
and  looked  at  Grigory: 

"Mend  the  gate,  and  put  a  new  post  in."  He 
stood  in  thought  for  a  moment,  then  announced 
as  if  it  were  news: 

"Pyotr's  gone." 

Over  the  wattle  fence,  Grigory  saw  Stepan 
getting  ready,  Aksinya,  dressed  up  in  a  green 

43 


woollen  skirt,  led  out  his  horse.  Stepan  smiling- 
ly said  something  to  her.  Unhurriedly,  posses- 
sively, he  kissed  his  wife,  and  his  arm  lingered 
long  around  her  shoulder.  His  hand,  darkened 
by  sun  and  toil,  looked  coal-black  against  her 
white  blouse.  He  stood  with  his  back  to  Gri- 
gory;  his  firm,  clean-shaven  neck,  his  broad, 
rather  sloping  shoulders,  and  (whenever  he  bent 
towards  his  wife)  the  twisted  ends  of  his  light- 
brown  moustache  were  visible  across  the  fence. 

Aksinya  laughed  at  something  and  shook  her 
head.  The  big  black  stallion  lurched  slightly  as 
Stepan  swung  his  great  weight  into  the  saddle. 
Sitting  as  though  planted  in  the  saddle,  Stepan 
rode  his  black  horse  at  a  brisk  trot  through 
the  gate,  and  Aksinya  walked  at  his  side,  hold- 
ing the  stirrup  and  looking  up  lovingly  ard 
hungrily,  like  a  dog,  into  his  eyes. 

Grigory  watched  them  to  the  turn  of  the 
road  with  a  long  unblinking  gaze. 

IV 

Towards  evening  a  thunderstorm  gathered. 
A  mass  of  heavy  cloud  lay  over  the  village. 
Lashed  into  fury  by  the  wind,  the  Don  sent 
foaming  breakers  against  its  banks.  The  sky 
flamed  with  dry  lightning,  occasional  peals  of 
thunder  shook  the  earth.  A  kite  circled  with 


outspread  wings  just  below  the  clouds  and  was 
pursued  by  croaking  ravens.  Spreading  its  cool 
breath,  the  cloud  passed  down  the  Don  from 
the  west.  Beyond  the  meadows  the  heavens 
blackened  menacingly,  the  steppe  lay  in  expect- 
ant silence.  In  the  village  there  was  a  rattle  of 
closing  shutters,  the  old  people  hurried  home 
from  vespers  crossing  themselves.  A  grey  pillar 
of  dust  whirled  over  the  square,  and  the  heat- 
burdened  earth  was  already  beginning  to  be 
scattered  with  the  first  seeds  of  rain. 

Shaking  her  braided  tresses,  Dunya  flew 
across  the  yard,  slammed  the  door  of  the  chick- 
enhouse,  and  stood  in  the  middle  of  the  yard 
with  nostrils  distended  like  a  horse  at  a  hurdle. 
In  the  street  the  children  were  prancing  about. 
Eight-year-old  Mishka,  his  father's  absurdly 
large  peaked  cap  drawn  over  his  eyes,  was 
spinning  round  and  chirruping  shrilly: 

Rain,  rain,  rain  away. 
We're  going  ofi  for  the  day. 
To  pay  God  our  vow. 
And  to  Christ  to  how. 

Dunya  enviously  watched  Mishka's  chapped 
bare  feet  stamping  the  ground.  She,  too,  want- 
ed to  dance  in  the  rain  and  to  get  her  head 
wet,  so  that  her  hair  might  grow  thick  and  cur- 
ly; she,  too,  wanted  to  stand  on  her  hands  like 

45 


Mishka's  friend  in  the  roadside  dust,  at  the 
risk  of  falling  into  the  nettles.  But  her  mother 
was  watching  and  angrily  moving  her  lips  at 
the  window.  With  a  sigh  she  ran  into  the  house. 
The  rain  was  now  falling  heavily.  A  peal  of 
thunder  broke  right  over  the  roof  and  went 
rolling  away  across  the  Don. 

In  the  porch  Pantelei  and  the  perspiring  Gri- 
gory  were  hauling  a  folded  drag-net  out  of  the 
side-room. 

"Raw  thread  and  a  pack-needle,  quick!"  Gri- 
gory  called  to  Dunya.  Darya  sat  down  to  mend 
the  net.  Her  mother-in-law  grumbled  as  she 
rocked  the  baby: 

"What  else  will  you  take  into  your  head, 
man!  Let's  go  to  bed.  Kerosene  costs  more  and 
more.  What  do  you  think  you'll  catch  now? 
Where  the  plague  are  you  going?  And  you'll 
get  drowned  into  the  bargain,  the  terror  of  the 
Lord  is  upon  us.  Just  look  at  the  lightning! 
Lord  Jesus  Christ,  Mother  of  Heaven.  .  .  ." 

For  an  instant  it  was  dazzlingly  blue  and  si- 
lent in  the  kitchen;  the  rain  could  be  heard 
drumming  on  the  shutters.  A  clap  of  thunder 
followed.  Dunya  whimpered  and  buried  her  face 
in  the  net.  Darya  made  the  sign  of  the  cross  to- 
wards the  windows  and  door.  The  old  woman 
stared  with  terrible  eyes  at  the  cat  rubbing  it- 
self against  her  legs: 

46 


"Dunya,  chase  this  d-.  Mother  of  Heaven, 
forgive  me  my  sins.  .  .  .  Dunya,  put  the  cat  out 
into  the  yard!  Shoo,  evil  spirit!  May  you.  .  .  ." 

Dropping  the  net,  Grigory  shook  with  silent 
laughter. 

"Well,  what  are  you  fussing  about?  Enough 
of  that!"  shouted  Pantelei.  "Get  on  with  your 
mending,  women.  I  told  you  the  other  day  to 
see  to  the  net." 

"There's  no  fish  now,"  his  wife  ventured. 

"If  you  don't  understand,  hold  your  tongue! 
The  sterlet  will  make  for  the  bank  now,  they're 
afraid  of  storms.  The  water  must  be  muddy  by 
now.  Dunya,  go  out  and  see  whether  you  can 
hear  the  stream  running." 

Dunya  edged  unwillingly  towards  the  door. 

Old  Ilyinichna  would  not  be  repressed. 
"Who's  going  to  wade  with  you?  Darya 
mustn't,  she'll  catch  cold  in  her  chest,"  she 
persisted. 

"Me  and  Grigory,  and  for  the  other  net  .  .  . 
we'll  call  Aksinya  and  another  of  the  women." 

Dunya  ran  in  breathlessly.  Drops  of  rain 
hung  trembling  on  her  lashes.  She  smelt  of  the 
dank,  black  earth. 

"The  stream's  roaring  like  anything,"  she 
panted. 

"You  coming  too?" 

"Who  else  is  going?" 

41 


"We'll  get  some  of  the  women." 

"All  right." 

"Put  on  your  coat  and  run  to  Aksinya,"  her 
father  told  her.  "If  she'll  go,  ask  her  to  fetch 
Malashka  Frolova,  too." 

"That  one  won't  freeze,"  Grigory  said  with 
a  grin,  "she's  fat  as  a  hog." 

"Why  don't  you  take  some  hay,  Grisha  dear," 
his  mother  advised.  "Stuff  some  under  your 
heart  or  you'll  take  a  chill  inside." 

"Yes,  go  for  some  hay,  Grigory.  The  old 
woman's  quite  right." 

Dunya  quickly  returned  with  the  women. 
Aksinya,  in  a  blue  skirt  and  a  ragged  jacket 
belted  with  rope,  looked  shorter  and  thinner. 
Exchanging  laughs  with  Darya,  she  took  off 
her  kerchief,  wound  her  hair  into  a  tighter 
knot,  and  throwing  back  her  head,  stared  cold- 
ly at  Grigory.  As  the  stout  Malashka  tied  up 
her  stockings,  she  said  hoarsely: 

"Have  you  got  your  sacks?  We're  sure  to 
haul  up  the  fish  today." 

They  all  went  into  the  yard.  The  rain  was 
still  falling  heavily  on  the  sodden  earth,  froth- 
ing the  puddles  and  trickling  in  streams  down 
to  the  Don. 

Grigory  led  the  way  down  to  the  river. 

For  no  reason  he  suddenly  felt  very  gay. 

"Mind  the  ditch.  Dad." 

48 


"How  dark  it  is!" 

"Hang  on  to  me,  Aksinya,"  Malashka 
laughed  hoarsely. 

"Isn't  that  the  landing  stage,  Grigory?" 

"That's  it." 

"Begin  from  here,"  Pantelei  shouted  above 
the  roar  of  the  wind.  , 

"Can't  hear  you,  uncle,"  Malashka  called 
throatily. 

"Start  wading,  I'll  take  the  deep  side.  .  .  .  The 
deep  ...  I  say.  Malashka,  you  deaf  devil,  where 
are  you  dragging  to?  I'll  go  out  into  the 
deeps.  .  .  .  Grigory,  Grisha,  let  Aksinya  take  the 
bank!" 

A  groaning  roar  from  the  Don.  The  wind  was 
tearing  the  slanting  sheet  of  rain  to  shreds. 
Feeling  the  bottom  with  his  feet,  Grigory  wad- 
ed up  to  his  waist  into  the  water.  A  clammy 
cold  crept  into  his  chest,  drawing  tightly  in  a 
ring  round  his  heart.  The  waves  lashed  his  face 
and  tightly  screwed-up  eyes  like  a  knout.  The 
net  bellied  out  and  was  carried  off  into  the 
deeps.  Grigory's  feet,  in  woollen  socks,  slipped 
over  the  sandy  bottom.  The  net  was  being 
dragged  out  of  his  hand.  Deeper,  deeper.  A 
sudden  drop.  His  legs  were  carried  away.  The 
current  snatched  him  up  and  bore  him  into 
midstream.  With  his  right  hand  he  vigorously 
paddled  back  to  the  bank.  The  black,  swirling 

4—1933  49 


depths  frightened  him  as  never  before.  His 
feet  joyously  found  the  muddy  bottom.  A  fish 
knocked  against  his  knee. 

"Take  it  deep!"  his  father's  voice  came  from 
the  clinging  darkness. 

Again  the  net  heeled  over  and  pulled  down 
into  the  depths.  Again  the  current  carried  the 
ground  away  from  under  his  feet,  and  Grigory 
swam,  spitting  out  water. 

"Aksinya,  you  all  right?" 

"All  right,  so  far." 

"Isn't  the  rain  stopping?" 

"The  fine  rain  is,  now  we'll  get  the  heavy 
stuff." 

"Talk  quietly.  If  my  father  hears  he'll  go  for 
me." 

"Afraid  of  your  father,  huh?" 

For  a  moment  they  hauled  in  silence. 

"Grisha,  there's  a  sunken  tree  by  the  bank,  I 
think!  We  must  get  the  net  round  it." 

A  terrible  buffet  flung  Grigory  far  away 
from  her. 

"Ah-ah!"  Aksinya  screamed  somewhere 
near  the  bank.  Terrified,  he  swam  in  the  direc- 
tion of  her  call. 

"Aksinya!" 

Wind,  and  the  flowing  roar  of  the  water, 

"Aksinya!"  Grigory  shouted  again,  going 
cold  with  fear, 

50 


"Hey,  Grigory,"  he  heard  his  father's  voice 
from  afar. 

He  struck  out  wildly.  He  felt  something 
sticky  under  his  feet,  and  caught  it  with  his 
hand-it  was  the  net. 

"Grisha,  where  are  you?"  he  heard  Aksinya's 
tearful  voice. 

"Why  didn't  you  answer  my  shout?"  he 
bawled  angrily,  crawling  on  hands  and  knees 
up  the  bank. 

Squatting  down  on  their  heels,  they  disen- 
tangled the  net.  The  moon  broke  through  the 
cracked  shell  of  a  cloud.  There  was  a  restrained 
mutter  of  thunder  beyond  the  meadows.  The 
earth  gleamed  with  moisture.  Washed  clean 
by  the  rain,  the  sky  was  stern  and  clear. 

As  he  disentangled  the  net  Grigory  stared  at 
Aksinya.  Her  face  was  a  chalky  white,  but  her 
red,  slightly  upturned  lips  were  smiling. 

"The  way  I  was  knocked  against  the  bank!  I 
nearly  went  out  of  my  mind.  I  was  scared  to 
death.  I  thought  you  were  drowned." 

Their  hands  touched.  Aksinya  tried  to  push 
hers  into  the  sleeve  of  his  shirt. 

"How  warm  your  arm  is,"  she  said  plaintive- 
ly, "and  I'm  frozen!" 

"Look  where  that  bastard  got  away,"  Grigo- 
ry showed  her  a  hole  about  five  feet  across  in 
the  middle  of  the  net. 

4*  51 


Someone  came  running  along  the  bank.  Gri- 
gory  guessed  it  was  Dunya.  He  shouted  to  her: 

"Got  the  thread?" 

"Yes.  What  are  you  sitting  here  for?  Father 
sent  me  for  you  to  come  at  once  to  the  point. 
We've  caught  a  sackful  of  sterlet."  Unconcealed 
triumph  sounded  in  her  voice. 

With  teeth  chattering,  Aksinya  sewed  up  the 
hole  in  the  net.  Then,  to  get  warm,  they  raced 
to  the  point. 

Pantelei  was  rolling  a  cigarette  with  scarred 
fingers  swollen  by  the  water;  jigging  about,  he 
boasted : 

"The  first  time,  eight  fish;  but  the  second 
time  .  .  ."  he  paused  and  silently  pointed  with 
his  foot  to  the  sack.  Aksinya  peeped  curiously 
inside:  from  it  came  the  slithery  scraping 
sound   of  stirring  fish. 

"Where  were  you?" 

"A  sheat-fish  broke  our  net." 

"Did  you  mend  it?" 

"Yes,  somehow." 

"Well,  we'll  wade  in  once  more  up  to  our 
"knees,  and  then  home.  In  you  go,  Grisha;  what 
are  you  waiting  for?" 

Grigory  stepped  out  with  numbed  legs.  Ak- 
sinya was  shivering  so  much  that  he  felt  the 
net  trembling. 

"Stop  shaking!" 

52 


"I  wish  I  could,  but  I  can't  catch  my  breath." 
"Listen!  Let's  get  out,  and  damn  the  fish!" 
At  that  moment  a  great  carp  leaped  over  the 
net.  Grigory  dragged  the  net  into  a  tighter 
circle.  Aksinya  toiled  up  the  bank.  The  water 
splashed  on  the  sands  and  slopped  back.  Fish 
lay  quivering  in  the  net. 

"Back  through  the  meadow?" 
"It's  nearer  through  the  wood." 
"Hey  there,  are  you  coming?" 
"Go  on  ahead.  We'll  catch    you    up.    We're 
cleaning  the  net." 

Frowning,  Aksinya  wrung  out  her  skirl, 
hoisted  the  sack  of  fish  over  her  shoulder  and 
set  off  almost  at  a  trot.  Grigory  picked  up  the 
net.  They  had  covered  some  two  himdred  yards 
when  Aksinya  began  to  groan: 

"I  can't  go  on.  My  legs  are  numb." 
"Look,  there's  an  old  haystack.  Why  don't 
you  have  a  warm  there." 

"Good!  I'll  never  get  home  otherwise." 
Grigory  turned  back  the  top  of  the  stack  and 
dug  out  a  hole.  The  long-lying  hay  smelt  warm 
and  rotten. 
"Crawl  into  the  middle.  It's  like  a  stove  here." 
She  threw  down  the  sack  and  buried  herself 
up  to  the  neck  in  hay.  Shivering  with  cold,  Gri- 
gory lay  down  at  her  side.  A  tender  agitating 
scent  came  from  her  damp  hair.  She  lay  with 

53 


head  thrown  back,  breathing  regularly  through 
her  half-open  mouth. 

"Your  hair  smells  like  henbane.  Do  you 
know  that  white  flower?"  Grigory  whis- 
pered, bending  towards  her.  She  was  silent.  Her 
gaze  was  misty  and  distant,  fixed  on  the  wan- 
ing, crescent  moon. 

Taking  his  hand  out  of  his  pocket,  Grigory 
suddenly  drew  her  head  towards  him.  She  tore 
herself  away  fiercely,  and  raised  herself  from 
the  hay. 

"Let  me  go!" 

"Keep  quiet!" 

"Let  go,  or  I'll  shout!" 

"Wait,  Aksinya!" 

"Uncle  Pantelei!" 

"Have  you  got  lost?"  Pantelei's  voice  sound- 
ed quite  close,  from  behind  a  clump  of  haw- 
thorn bushes.  Clenching  his  teeth,  Grigory 
jumped  out  of  the  stack. 

"What  are  you  shouting  for?  Are  you  lost?" 
the  old  man  questioned  as  he  approached. 

Aksinya  stood  by  the  haystack  adjusting  her 
kerchief,  steam  rising  from  her  clothes. 

"We're  not  lost,  but  I'm  nearly  frozen." 

"Look,  woman,  there's  a  haystack,  warm 
yourself,"  the  old  man  told  her. 

Aksinya  smiled  as  she  stopped  to  pick  up  the 
sack. 

54 


It  was  some  sixty  versts  to  the  training  camp 
at  Setrakov.  Pyotr  Melekhov  and  Stepan  Asta- 
khov  rode  in  the  same  wagon.  With  them  were 
three  others  from  their  village:  Fedot  Bodov- 
skov,  a  young  Cossack  with  a  pock-marked  Kal- 
myk face,  Christonya  Tokin,  a  second-draft  re- 
servist in  the  Ataman's  Regiment  of  Lifeguards, 
and  the  artilleryman  Ivan  Tomilin.  After  the 
first  halt  for  food  they  harnessed  Christonya's 
and  Astakhov's  horses  to  the  wagon,  and  the 
other  horses  were  tethered  behind.  Christonya, 
burly  and  a  bit  queer  in  the  head  like  all  the 
men  of  the  Ataman's  Regiment,  took  the  reins. 
He  sat  in  front  with  his  back,  curved  like  a 
wheel,  blocking  out  the  light  from  the  interior 
of  the  wagon,  and  urged  on  the  horses  in  his 
deep,  rumbling  bass  voice.  Pyotr,  Stepan  and 
Tomilin  lay  smoking  under  the  tightly-stretched 
tarpaulin  cover.  Bodovskov  walked  behind, 
his  bandy  Kalmyk  legs  making  light  of  the 
dusty  road. 

Christonya's  wagon  led  the  way.  Behind 
trailed  seven  or  eight  others,  leading  saddled 
and  unsaddled  horses.  The  road  was  noisy  with 
laughter,  shouts,  songs,  the  snorting  of  horses, 
and  the  jingling  of  empty  stirrups. 

55 


Pyotr's  head  rested  on  a  bag  of  rusks.  He 
lay  still,  twirling  his  tawny  whiskers. 

"Stepan!" 

"Huh?" 

"Let's  have  a   song." 

"It's  too  hot.  My  throat's  dry  as  a  bone!" 

"You  won't  find  any  drink  round  here.  So 
don't  wait  for  that!" 

"Well,  sing  up.  Only  you're  no  good  at  it. 
Your  Grisha  now,  he  can  sing.  His  isn't  a  voice, 
it's  a  pure  silver  thread." 

Stepan  threw  back  his  head,  coughed,  and 
began  in  a  low,  tuneful  voice: 

Oh,  a  fine  glowing  sunrise 
Came  up  early  in  the  sky. 

Tomilin  rested  his  cheek  on  his  palm  like 
a  woman  and  picked  up  the  refrain  in  a  thin, 
wailing  voice.  Smiling,  Pyotr  watched  the  little 
knotted  veins  on  his  temples  turning  blue  with 
the  effort. 

Young  was  she,  the  little  woman 
That  went  tripping  to  the  stream. 

Stepan,  who  was  lying  with  his  head  towards 
Christonya,  turned  round  on  his  elbow: 
"Come  on,  Christonya,  join  in!" 

And  the  lad,  he  guessed  her  purpose. 
Saddled  up  his  chestnut  mare. 

56 


Stepan  turned  his  smiling  glance  towards 
Pyotr,  and  Pyotr,  flicking  the  tip  of  his  mous- 
tache out  of  his  mouth,  added  his  voice.  Open- 
ing wide  his  heavily-bearded  jaws,  Christonya 
roared  in  a  voice  that  shook  the  tarpaulin 
cover: 

Saddled  up  his  chestnut  mare 
To  catch  the  little  woman. 

Christonya  tucked  his  bare  foot  under  him 
and  waited  for  Stepan  to  begin  again.  Closing 
his  eyes,  his  perspiring  face  in  shadow,  Stepan 
sang  on  gently,  now  dropping  his  voice  to  a 
whisper,  now  making  it  ring  out  metallically. 

Let  me,  let  me,  little  woman. 
Bring  my  chestnut  to  the  stream. 

And  again  Christonya's  deep  booming  tones 
drowned  the  others.  Voices  from  the  neighbour- 
ing wagons  took  up  the  song.  The  wheels 
clanked  on  their  iron  rims,  the  horses  snorted 
with  the  dust  and  the  song  floated  on,  strong 
and  deep.  A  white-winged  peewit  flew  up  from 
the  brown  wilted  steppe.  It  flew  with  a  cry  to- 
wards a  hollow,  turning  an  emerald  eye  to 
watch  the  chain  of  white-covered  wagons,  the 
horses  kicking  up  clouds  of  dust  with  their 
hoofs,  the  men  in  white,  dusty  shirts,  walking 
at  the  edge  of  the  road.  And  as  the  peewit 
dropped  into  the  hollow  and  its  black  breast 

57 


nestled  into  the  damp  grass  pressed  flat  by 
roaming  animals,  it  missed  the  scene  that  was 
taking  place  on  the  road.  The  wagons  were 
trundling  along  as  before,  the  sweating  horses 
were  still  loping  unwillingly  through  the  dust, 
but  now  the  Cossacks  in  their  dust-grey  shirts 
were  running  from  their  wagons  to  the  leader, 
milling  round  it  and  roaring  with  laughter. 

Stepan  was  poised  at  full  height  on  the  wag- 
on, holding  the  tarpaulin  with  one  hand,  beat- 
ing time  with  the  other,  and  roaring  out  a 
catchy  tune  in  double-quick  time: 

Oh,  don't  sit  by  me. 

Oh,  don't  sit  by  me. 

Folk  will  say  you're  in  love  with  me, 

In  love  ivith  me 

And  coming  to  me. 

In  love  with  me 

And  coming  to  me. 

But  I'm.  not  one  oi  the  common  run.  .  .  . 

Dozens  of  rough  voices  took  up  the  chorus 
with  a  roar  that  flattened  the  roadside  dust: 

But  I'm  not  one  oi  the  common  run, 

I'm  not  one  oi  the  common  run. 

I'm  brigand  born. 

And  brigand  bred- 

Not  one  oi  the  common  run. 

And  I'm  in  love  with  a  prince's  §Qn,  . . . 

58 


Fedot  Bodovskov  whistled;  the  horses  strained 
at  the  traces;  leaning  out  of  the  wagon, 
Pyotr  laughed  and  waved  his  cap;  Stepan,  with 
a  dazzling  smile  on  his  face,  impudently  swung 
his  shoulders;  along  the  road  the  dust  rolled  in 
a  cloud.  Christonya  jumped  out  of  the  wagon 
in  his  great  long  unbelted  shirt,  his  hair  mat- 
ted, his  face  streaming  with  sweat,  and  did  the 
Cossack  dance,  whirling  round  like  a  fly-wheel, 
frowning  and  groaning,  and  leaving  the  huge 
splayed  imprints  of  his  bare  feet  in  the  silky- 
grey  dust. 


VI 


They  stopped  for  the  night  by  a  mound  with 
a  sandy  summit.  Clouds  gathered  in  the  west. 
Rain  dripped  from  their  black  wings.  The 
horses  were  watered  at  a  pond.  Above  the  dyke 
dismal  willows  bowed  before  the  wind.  In  the 
water,  covered  with  stagnant  duckweed  and 
scaled  with  miserable  little  ripples,  the  light- 
ning was  distortedly  reflected.  The  wind  crum- 
bled the  raindrops  sparingly  as  though  scatter- 
ing alms  into  the  earth's  swarthy  palms. 

The  hobbled  horses  were  turned  out  to  graze, 
three  men  being  appointed  as  guards.  The  other 
men  lit  fires  and  hung  pots  on  the  wagon 
shafts, 

59 


Christonya  was  cooking  millet.  As  he  stirred 
it  with  a  spoon,  he  told  a  story  to  the  Cossacks 
sitting  around: 

"The  mound  was  high,  like  this  one.  And  I 
says  to  my  now  deceased  father:  'Won't  the 
ataman*  give  it  us  for  digging  up  the  mound 
without  permission'?" 

"What's  he  blathering  about?"  asked  Stepan, 
as  he  came  back  from  the  horses.  He  squatted 
down  by  the  fire  and  flicked  an  ember  on  to  his 
palm,  juggling  it  about  for  a  long  time  while 
he  lighted  a  cigarette. 

"I'm  telling  how  I  and  my  father,  may  his 
soul  rest  in  peace,  looked  for  treasure.  It  was 
the  Merkulov  mound.  Well,  and  Father  says: 
'Come  on,  Christonya,  we'll  dig  up  the  Merku- 
lov mound.'  He'd  heard  from  his  father  that 
treasure  was  buried  in  it.  You  see.  Father  prom- 
ised God:  'Give  me  the  treasure,  and  I'll 
build  a  fine  church.'  So  we  agreed  and  off  we 

*  Atamans  were  elected  by  the  Cossacks  of  tsarist 
Russia  for  posts  of  leadership  at  various  levels.  The  chief 
of  the  Don  Army  was  called  the  army  ataman,  the  chief 
of  a  stanitsa,  a  Cossack  district  or  district  centre,  the 
stanitsa  ataman.  When  a  Cossack  detachment  went  out  on 
a  campaign  it  elected  its  own  "campaign  ataman."  In  a 
broad  sense  the  word  meant  "chief."  When  the  Don  Cos- 
sacks finally  lost  their  independence,  the  title  of  Ataman 
of  all  Cossack  Forces  became  a  hereditary  title  of  the 
tsar  and,  in  effect,  all  Cossack  troops  were  commanded 
by    appointed   atamans. 

60 


went.  It  was  on  common  land,  so  only  the  ata- 
man could  stop  us.  We  arrived  late  in  the  after- 
noon. So  we  waited  until  nightfall  and  then 
climbed  up  on  top  with  shovels.  We  began  to 
dig  straight  down  from  its  top-knot.  We'd  dug 
a  hole  six  feet  deep;  the  earth  was  like  stone. 
I  was  wet  through.  Father  kept  on  muttering 
prayers,  but  believe  me,  brothers,  my  belly  was 
grumbling  so  much.  ,  .  .  You  know  what  we  eat 
in  summer:  sour  milk  and  kvass.  My  father,  he 
says:  'Pfooh!'  he  says,  'Christonya,  you're  a 
heathen.  Here  am  I  praying,  and  you  can't 
hold  your  food,  I  can't  breathe  for  the  stink. 
Get  off  the  mound,  you  ...  or  I'll  split  your 
head  open  with  the  shovel.  Your  stink's  enough 
to  make  the  treasure  sink  into  the  ground.'  So 
I  lay  down  by  the  mound,  fit  to  die  with  my 
belly-ache,  and  my  father-a  strong  man  he 
was-goes  on  digging  alone.  And  he  digs  down 
to  a  stone  slab.  He  calls  me.  I  push  a  crow-bar 
under  it,  and  lift  it  up.  Believe  me,  brothers,  it 
was  a  moonlight  night,  and  under  this  slab  was 
such  a  glitter.  .  .  ." 

"Now  you're  lying,  Christonya,"  Pyotr  broke 
in,  smiling  and  tugging  at  his  whiskers. 

"Who's  lying?  Go  to  the  devil,  and  to  the 
devil's  dam!"  ChriiStonya  hitched  up  his  sharo- 
vari  and  glanced  round  at  his  audience.  "No, 
I'm  not  lying.  It's  God's  truth!  There  it  shone. 

61 


I  look,  and  it's  charcoal.  Some  forty  bushels  of 
it.  Father  says :  'Crawl  in,  Christonya,  and  dig  it 
up.'  So  I  dug  out  this  rubbish.  I  went  on  dig- 
ging till  daylight.  And  in  the  morning  there  he 
was." 

"Who?"  asked  Tomilin. 

"Why,  the  ataman,  who  else?  He  happens  to 
come  driving  by.  'Who  gave  you  permission?' 
and  all  the  rest  of  it.  He  lays  hold  of  us  and 
hauls  us  off  to  the  stanitsa.  We  were  called 
before  the  court  at  Kamenskaya  the  year  before 
last,  but  Father,  he  guessed  what  was  coming, 
and  managed  to  die  beforehand.  We  wrote  back 
saying  he  was  not  among  the  living." 

Christonya  took  his  pot  of  boiling  millet  and 
went  to  the  wagon  for  spoons. 

"Well,  what  about  your  father?  He  promised 
to  build  a  church;  didn't  he  do  it?"  Stepan 
asked,  when  he  returned. 

"You're  a  fool,  Stepan.  What  could  he  build 
for  charcoal?" 

"Once  he  promised  he  ought  to  have  done 
it." 

"There  was  no  agreement  whatever  about 
charcoal,  and  the  treasure, .  . ."  The  guffaw  that 
went  up  made  the  flames  of  the  fire  tremble. 
Christonya  raised  his  head  from  the  pot,  and 
not  understanding  what  the  laughter  was  about, 
drowned  all  the  rest  with  his  heavy  roar. 

62 


VII 


Aksinya  was  seventeen  when  she  was  given 
in  marriage  to  Stepan  Astakhov.  She  came  from 
the  village  of  Dubrovka,  from  the  sands  on  the 
other  side  of  the  Don. 

About  a  year  before  her  marriage  she  was 
ploughing  in  the  steppe  eight  versts  or  so  from 
the  village.  In  the  night  her  father,  a  man  of 
some  fifty  years,  tied  her  hands  and  raped  her. 

"I'll  kill  you  if  you  breathe  a  word,  but  if 
you  keep  quiet  I'll  buy  you  a  plush  jacket  and 
gaiters  with  goloshes.  Remember,  I'll  kill  you 
if  you  .  .  ."  he  promised  her. 

Aksinya  ran  back  through  the  night  in  her 
torn  petticoat  to  the  village.  She  flung  herself 
at  her  mother's  feet  and  sobbed  out  the  whole 
story.  Her  mother  and  elder  brother  harnessed 
horses  to  the  wagon,  made  Aksinya  get  in  with 
them,  and  drove  to  the  father.  Her  brother  al- 
most drove  the  horses  to  death  over  the  eight 
versts.  They  found  the  old  man  close  to  the 
field  camp.  He  was  lying  on  his  overcoat  in  a 
drunken  sleep  with  an  empty  vodka  bottle  by 
his  side.  Before  Aksinya's  eyes  her  brother  un- 
hooked the  swingle-tree  from  the  wagon, 
brought  him  to  his  feet  with  a  kick,  curtly 
asked  him  a  question  or  two  and  struck  him  a 
blow    between   the  eyes    with    the    iron-shod 

63 


swingle-tree.  He  and  his  mother  went  on  beat- 
ing him  steadily  for  an  hour  and  a  half.  The 
ageing  mother,  who  had  always  been  an  obe- 
dient wife,  frenziedly  tore  at  her  unconscious 
husband's  hair,  the  brother  used  his  feet.  Ak- 
sinya  lay  under  the  wagon,  her  head  covered, 
shaking  silently.  They  carried  her  father  home 
just  before  dawn.  He  lay  moaning  pitifully,  his 
eyes  wandering  around  the  room,  seeking  for 
Aksinya,  who  had  hidden  herself  away.  Blooid 
and  puss  ran  from  his  torn  ear  on  to  the  pillow. 
Towards  evening  he  died.  They  told  the  neigh- 
bours he  had  fallen  from  the  wagon. 

Within  a  year  match-makers  arrived  on  a 
gaily  bedecked  wagonette  to  ask  for  Aksinya's 
hand.  The  tall  Stepan  with  his  clean-cut  neck 
and  well-proportioned  figure  appealed  to  his 
future  bride,  and  the  wedding  was  fixed  for  the 
autumn. 

The  day  was  frosty  and  the  ice  rang  merrily 
on  the  roads  when  Aksinya  was  installed  as 
young  mistress  of  the  Astakhov  household.  The 
morning  after  the  festivities  her  mother-in-law, 
a  tall  old  woman  doubled  up  with  some  painful 
woman's  disease,  woke  Aksinya,  led  her  into 
the  kitchen,  and  aimlessly  shifting  things  about, 
said  to  her: 

"Now,  dear  daughter,  we  didn't  take  you  for 
making  love,  nor  for  you  to  lie  abed.  Go  and 

64 


milk  the  cows,  and  then  get  some  food  ready. 
I'm  old  and  sick.  You  must  take  over  the  house- 
hold, it  will  all  fall  on  you," 

The  same  day  Stepan  took  his  young  wife  in- 
to the  barn  and  beat  her  deliberately  and  ter- 
ribly. He  beat  her  on  the  belly,  the  breasts  and 
the  back,  taking  care  that  the  marks  should  not 
be  visible  to  others.  After  that  he  neglected  her, 
kept  company  with  flighty  grass-widows  and 
went  out  almost  every  night,  leaving  Aksinya 
locked  in  the  barn  or  the  best  room. 

For  eighteen  months,  until  there  was  a  child, 
he  would  not  forgive  her  his  disgrace.  Then  he 
was  quieter,  but  was  grudging  with  caresses 
and  rarely  spent  the  night  at  home. 

The  large  farm  with  its  numerous  cattle  burd- 
ened Aksinya  with  work.  Stepan  worked  half- 
heartedly, and  went  off  to  smoke,  to  play 
cards,  to  learn  the  latest  news,  and  Aksinya  had 
to  do  everything.  Her  mother-in-law  was  a 
poor  help.  After  bustling  around  a  little  she 
would  drop  on  to  the  bed,  and  with  lips  tight- 
drawn  and  eyes  gazing  agonizedly  at  the  ceil- 
ing, would  lie  groaning,  rolled  into  a  bundle. 
At  such  times  her  face,  which  was  dotted  all 
over  with  great  ugly  moles,  broke  out  in  per- 
spiration and  tears  slithered  one  by  one  down 
her  cheeks.  Throwing  down  her  work,  Aksinya 

5—1933  65 


would  hide  in  a  corner  and  stare  at  her  mother- 
in-law's  face  in  fear  and  pity. 

The  old  woman  died  just  before  the  child 
was  born.  In  the  morning  Aksinya's  labour 
pains  began,  and  about  noon,  an  hour  or  so  be- 
fore the  child  came  into  the  world,  the  grand- 
mother dropped  dead  by  the  stable  door.  The 
midwife  ran  out  to  warn  the  tipsy  Stepan  not 
to  go  into  the  bedroom,  and  saw  the  old  wom- 
an lying  with  her  legs  tucked  under  her. 
After  the  birth  of  the  child,  Aksinya  devoted 
herself  to  her  husband,  but  she  had  no  feel- 
ing for  him,  only  a  bitter  womanly  pity  and 
force  of  habit  remained.  The  child  died  within 
a  year.  The  old  life  returned.  And  when  Grisha 
Melekhov  crossed  Aksinya's  path,  she  realized 
with  terror  that  she  was  attracted  to  the  gentle, 
swarthy  young  fellow.  He  waited  on  her  with  a 
persistent  expectant  love,  and  it  was  this  per- 
sistence that  Aksinya  feared  in  him.  She  saw 
that  he  was  not  afraid  of  Stepan,  she  felt  that 
he  would  not  hold  back  because  of  him,  and 
without  consciously  desiring  it,  resisting  the 
feeling  with  all  her  might,  she  noticed  that  on 
Sundays  and  weekdays  she  was  attiring  herself 
more  carefully.  Making  up  excuses  for  her  con- 
science, she  tried  to  place  herself  more  fre- 
quently in  his  path.  It  made  her  happy  to  feel 
Grigory's  black  eyes  caressing  her  heavily  and 

66 


rapturously.  When  she  awoke  of  a  morning 
and  went  to  milk  the  cows  she  would  smile, 
and  without  realizing  why,  think  to  herself: 
"Today's  a  happy  day.  But  why.  .  .?  Oh,  Grigo- 
ry.  , . .  Grisha."  She  was  frightened  by  the  new 
feeling  which  filled  her,  and  in  her  thoughts 
she  felt  her  way  gropingly,  cautiously,  as 
though  crossing  the  Don  over  the  melting  ice 
of  March. 

After  seeing  Stepan  off  to  camp  she  decided 
to  see  Grigory  as  little  as  possible.  After  the 
fishing,  her  decision  was  still  further  strength- 
ened. 

VIII 

Some  two  days  before  Trinity  the  distribu- 
tion of  the  village  meadowland  took  place.  Pan- 
telei  attended  the  allotment.  He  came  back  at 
dinner-time,  kicked  off  his  boots  with  a  groan, 
and  noisily  scratching  his  weary  feet,  an- 
nounced : 

"We've  got  the  stretch  near  the  Red  Bank. 
Not  very  good  grass  as  grass  goes.  The  upper 
part  runs  up  to  the  forest,  it's  just  scrub  in 
places.  And  a  bit  of  quitch  coming  through." 

"When  shall  we  do  the  mowing?"  Grigory 
asked. 

"After  the  holidays." 

5*  67 


"Are  you  going  to  take  Darya  along?"  the 
old  woman  frowned.  Pantelei  Prokofyevich 
brushed  her  aside. 

"Let  me  alone !  We'll  take  her  if  we  need  her. 
Get  lunch  ready.  Why  do  you  stand  around 
gaping?" 

The  old  wife  opened  the  oven  door  with  a 
clatter,  and  drew  out  the  warmed-up  cabbage 
soup.  Pantelei  sat  over  the  meal  a  long  time, 
telling  of  the  day's  events,  and  of  the  tricky 
ataman,  who  had  all  but  swindled  the  whole 
assembly  of  Cossacks. 

"He  was  up  to  his  tricks  last  year,"  Darya 
put  in.  "The  way  he  tried  to  swindle  Malashka 
when  they  were  sharing  out  the  plots." 

"He's  always  been  a  son  of  a  bitch,"  Pan- 
telei muttered. 

"But  who's  going  to  do  the  raking  and  stack- 
ing. Dad?"  Dunya  asked  timidly. 

"What  about  you?" 

"I  can't  do  it  all  by  myself." 

"We'll  ask  Aksinya  Astakhova.  Stepan 
asked  us  to  mow  for  him." 

The  next  morning  Mitka  Korshunov  rode  up 
to  the  Melekhov  yard  on  his  white-legged  stal- 
lion. A  fine  rain  was  falling.  Thick  mist  hung 
over  the  village.  Mitka  leaned  out  of  his  sad- 
dle, opened  the  wicket  and  rode  in.  The  old 
wife  hailed  him  from  the  steps. 

68 


"Hey,  you  rapscallion,  what  do  you  want?" 
she  asked  with  evident  dissatisfaction  in  her 
voice,  for  she  had  no  love  for  the  reckless  and 
quarrelsome  Mitka. 

"What's  that  to  you,  Ilyinichna?"  Mitka 
said  in  surprise,  as  he  tied  his  horse  to  the  rail- 
ing. "I  want  Grisha.  Where  is  he?" 

"He's  asleep  in  the  shed.  But  have  you  had 
a  -stroke?  Have  you  lost  the  use  of  your  legs 
that  you  must  ride?" 

"You're  always  poking  your  nose  in,  old  la- 
dy!" Mitka  retorted  huffily.  Smacking  an  ele- 
gant whip  against  the  legs  of  his  glossy  leather 
boots,  he  went  to  look  for  Grigory,  and  found 
him  asleep  in  a  cart.  Screwing  up  his  left  eye, 
Mitka  lashed  Grigory  with  his  whip. 

"Get  up,  muzhik!" 

"Muzhik"  was  the  most  abusive  word  Mitka 
could  think  of  using.  Grigory  jumped  up  as 
though  on  springs. 

"What  do  you  want?" 

"You've  been  in  bed  long  enough." 

"Stop  fooling  around,  Mitka,  before  I  get 
angry." 

"Get  up,  I've  got  to  talk  to  you." 

"Well?" 

Mitka  sat  down  on  the  side  of  the  cart,  and 
scraping  the  dried  mud  off  his  boots  with  a 
stick,  he  said: 

69 


"I've  been  insulted,  Grisha." 

"Well?" 

"You  see,  it's  .  .  /'  Mitka  cursed  heavily. 
"He's  a  lieutenant,  so  he  likes  to  show  off."  He 
snapped  out  the  words  angrily,  without  open- 
ing his  mouth,  his  legs  were  trembling.  Grigory 
got  up. 

"What  lieutenant?" 

Seizing  him  by  the  sleeve,  Mitka  said  more 
quietly : 

"Saddle  your  horse  at  once,  and  come  to  the 
meadows.  I'll  show  him!  I  said  to  him:  'Come 
on.  Your  Honour,  and  we'll  see.'  'Bring  all  your 
friends  and  comrades,'  he  said,  'I'll  beat  the  lot 
of  you.  My  mare's  dam  took  prizes  at  the  of- 
ficers' hurdle-races  at  St.  Petersburg.'  What  is 
his  mare  or  her  dam  to  me?  Curse  them!  I 
won't  let  them  outrace  my  stallion!" 

Grigory  hastily  dressed.  Choking  with  rage 
Mitka  hurried  him  up, 

"He's  come  to  visit  the  merchant  Mokhov. 
Wait,  what's  his  name?  Listnitsky,  I  think.  Big, 
serious-looking  fellow,  wears  glasses.  Well,  and 
let  him!  His  glasses  won't  help  him:  I  won't 
let  him  catch  my  stallion!" 

With  a  laugh,  Grigory  saddled  the  old  mare 
and,  to  avoid  meeting  his  father,  rode  out  to 
the  steppe  through  the  threshing-floor  gate. 
They  rode  to  the  meadow  at  the  foot  of  the  hill, 

70 


Close  to  a  withered  poplar,  horsemen  were 
awaiting  them:  the  officer  Listnitsky  on  a  hand- 
some, clean-limbed  mare,  and  seven  of  the  vil- 
lage lads  mounted  bareback. 

"Where  shall  we  start  from?"  the  officer 
turned  to  Mitka,  adjusting  his  pince-nez  and 
admiring  the  stallion's  powerful  chest  muscles. 

"From  the  poplar  to  the  Tsar's  Pond." 

"Where's  the  Tsar's  Pond?"  Listnitsky 
screwed  up  his  eyes  short-sightedly. 

"There,  Your  Honour,  on  the  edge  of  the 
wood." 

They  lined  up  the  horses.  The  officer  raised 
his  whip  above  his  head. 

"When  I  say  'three.'  All  right?  One  .  .  .  two 
.  .  .  three!" 

Listnitsky  got  away  first,  pressing  close  to  the 
saddle-bow,  holding  his  cap  on  with  his  hand. 
For  a  second  he  led  all  the  rest.  Mitka,  his  face 
desperately  pale,  rose  in  his  stirrups-to  Grigory 
he  seemed  unbearably  slow  in  bringing  the  whip 
down  on  the  croup  of  his  stallion. 

It  was  some  three  versts  to  the  Tsar's  Pond, 
Stretched  out  straight  as  an  arrow,  Mitka' s  stal- 
lion caught  up  with  Listnitsky' s  mare  when  half 
the  course  had  been  covered.  Left  behind  from 
the  very  beginning,  Grigory  trotted  along, 
watching  the  straggling  chain  of  riders. 

7/ 


By  the  Tsar's  Pond  was  a  sandy  hillock, 
washed  up  by  the  spring  floods.  Its  yellow  cam- 
el-hump was  overgrown  with  sandwort.  Gri- 
gory  saw  the  officer  and  Mitka  gallop  up  the 
hillock  and  disappear  over  the  brow  together, 
the  others  following.  When  he  reached  the  pond 
the  horses  were  already  standing  in  a  group 
around  Listnitsky.  Mitka  was  sleek  with  re- 
strained delight,  every  movement  expressing  his 
triumph.  Contrary  to  his  expectations,  the  offi- 
cer did  not  seem  at  all  disconcerted.  He  stood 
with  his  back  against  a  tree,  smoking  a  cigar- 
ette, and  said,  pointing  to  his  foam-flecked 
horse: 

"I've  ridden  a  hundred  and  fifty  versts  on  her 
already.  I  rode  over  from  the  stanitsa  only  yes- 
terday. If  she  were  fresh,  you'd  never  have 
caught  me,  Korshunov." 

"Maybe,"  Mitka  said  magnanimously. 

"His  stallion's  the  best  in  the  district,"  a 
freckled  lad,  who  had  come  up  last,  remarked 
enviously. 

"He's  a  good  horse,"  said  Mitka  and  stroked 
the  stallion's  neck,  his  hand  trembling  with 
emotion.  He  glanced  at  Grigory  and  grinned 
foolishly. 

Grigory  and  Mitka  left  the  others  and  rode 
home,  skirting  the  village.  The  lieutenant  took 

72 


a  chilly  leave  of  them,  thrust  two  fingers  under 
the  peak  of  his  cap  and  turned  away. 

As  they  were  approaching  home,  Grigory  saw 
Aksinya  comimg  towards  them.  She  was  strip- 
ping a  twig  as  she  walked.  When  she  noticed 
him  she  bent  her  head  lower. 

"What  are  you  blushing  for,  are  we  naked?" 
shouted  Mitka  and  winked. 

Gazing  straight  before  him,  Grigory  almost 
rode  by  her,  then  suddenly  struck  the  ambling 
mare  with  his  whip.  She  sat  back  on  her  hind- 
legs  and  sent  a  shower  of  mud  over  Aksinya. 

"Oh,  you  mad  devil!" 

Wheeling  sharply  and  riding  his  excited 
mount  at  her,  Grigory  demanded: 

"Why  don't  you  say  hullo?" 

"You're  not  worth  it!" 

"And  that's  why  I  sent  the  mud  over  you. 
Don't  think  so  much  of  yourself." 

"Let  me  pass!"  Aksinya  shouted,  waving  her 
arms  in  front  of  the  horse's  nose.  "What  are  you 
trampling  me  with  your  horse  for?" 

"She's  a  mare,  not  a  horse." 

"1  don't  care;  let  me  pass." 

"What  are  you  getting  angry  for,  Aksinya? 
Siurely  not  because  of  the  other  day,  in  the 
meadow?" 

Grigory  gazed  into  her  eyes.  Aksinya  tried  to 
say  something,  but  a  little  tear  started  from  the 

73 


comer  of  her  dark  eye,  and  her  lips  quivered 
pitifully.  Swallowing  hard,  she  whispered: 

"Go  away,  Grigory.  .  .  .  I'm  not  angry.  .  ,  , 
I.  .  .  ."  And  she  went. 

The  astonished  Grigory  overtook  Mitka 
at  the  gate. 

"Coming  out  for  the  evening?"  Mitka  asked. 

"No." 

"Why,  what's  on?  Or  did  she  invite  you  to 
spend  the  night  with  her?" 

Grigory  rubbed  his  forehead  with  his  palm 
and  made  no  reply. 

IX 

All  that  was  left  of  Trinity  in  the  village 
houses  was  the  dry  thyme  scattered  over  the 
floors,  the  dust  of  crumpled  leaves,  and  the 
shrivelled,  withered  green  of  broken  oak  and 
ash  branches  fastened  to  the  gates  and  stairs. 

The  haymaking  began  immediately  after 
Trinity.  From  early  morning  the  meadow  blos- 
somed with  women's  holiday  skirts,  the  bright 
embroidery  of  aprons,  and  coloured  kerchiefs. 
The  whole  village  turned  out  for  the  mowing. 
The  mowers  and  rakers  attired  themselves  as 
though  for  an  annual  holiday.  So  it  had  been 
from  of  old.  From  the  Don  to  the  distant  alder 

74 


thickets  the  ravaged  meadowland  stirred  and 
sighed. 

The  Melekhovs  were  late  in  starting.  They 
set  out  when  nearly  half  the  village  were  al- 
ready in  the  meadow. 

"You  sleep  late,  Pantelei  Prokofyevich,"  the 
perspiring  haymakers  greeted  him. 

"Not  my  fault  .  .  .  the  women  again!"  the  old 
man  laughed,  and  urged  on  the  bullocks  with 
his  knout  of  raw  hide. 

"Good-day  to  you,  neighbour!  You're  a  bit 
late,  aren't  you?"  a  tall  Cossack  in  a  straw  hat 
said,  shaking  his  head  as  he  stood  sharpening 
his  scythe  at  the  side  of  the  road. 

"You  reckon  the  grass  will  be  dry?" 

"If  you  don't  get  a  move  on,  it  soon  will  be." 

At  the  back  of  the  cart  sat  Aksinya,  her  face 
completely  covered  to  protect  it  from  the  sun. 
From  the  narrow  slits  left  for  her  eyes  she 
stared  calmly  and  severely  at  Grigory  seated  op- 
posite her.  Darya,  also  wrapped  up  and  dressed 
in  her  Sunday  best,  her  legs  dangling  between 
the  rungs  of  the  wagon-side,  was  giving  her  long 
blue-veined  breast  to  the  child  dozing  in  her 
arms.  Dunya  fidgeted  on  the  box,  her  happy 
eyes  scanning  the  meadow  and  the  people  walk- 
ing along  the  road.  Her  face,  cheerful  and  sun- 
burnt, with  a  sprinkling  of  freckles  across  her 
nose,  seemed  to  say,  "I  feel  gay  and  happy,  be- 

75 


cause  the  day,  with  its  blue  and  cloudless  sky, 
is  also  happy;  because  my  soul  is  filled  with  the 
same  cloudless  blue  calm.  I'm  happy,  I  have 
everything  I  want." 

Drawing  the  sleeve  of  his  cotton  shirt  over 
his  fists,  Pantelei  wiped  away  the  sweat  running 
down  from  under  the  peak  of  his  cap.  The  shirt 
stretched  tightly  across  his  bent  back,  darkened 
with  moist  patches.  The  sun  pierced  slantingly 
through  a  grey  fleecy  cloud,  and  dropped  a  fan 
of  misty,  refracted  rays  over  the  meadov/,  the 
village,  and  the  distant,  silvery  hills  of  the  Don. 

The  day  was  sultry.  The  little  clouds  crept 
along  drowsily,  not  even  overtaking  Pantelei' s 
bullocks  as  they  plodded  along  the  road.  The 
old  man  himself  lifted  and  waved  the  knout 
languidly,  as  though  in  doubt  whether  to  strike 
their  bony  flanks  or  not.  Evidently  realizing 
this,  the  bullocks  did  not  hasten  their  pace,  and 
slowly,  gropingly  set  forward  their  cloven  hoofs 
and  swished  their  tails.  A  dusty  gold-and-orange- 
tingled  horsefly  circled  above  them.  The 
meadowland  that  had  been  scythed  near  the 
threshing-floors  glowed  with  pale-green  patches; 
where  the  grass  had  not  yet  been  cut,  the 
grassy  silk,  green  with  a  gleam  of  black  in  it, 
rustled  in  the  breeze, 

"There's  our  strip,"  Pantelei  waved  his  knout. 

Grigory  unharnessed  the  weary  bullocks.  The 

76 


old  man,  his  ear-ring  glittering,  went  to  look  for 
the  mark  he  had  made  at  the  end  of  the  strip. 

"Bring  the  scythes,"  he  called  out  after  a 
moment,  waving  his  hand. 

Grigory  went  to  him,  treading  down  the 
grass,  and  leaving  an  undulating  trail  behind 
him,  Pantelei  faced  the  distant  bell-tower  and 
crossed  himself.  His  hook-nose  shone  as  though 
freshly  varnished,  the  sweat  clung  to  the  hol- 
lows of  his  swarthy  cheeks.  He  smiled,  bar- 
ing a  close-set  row  of  white,  gleaming  teeth 
in  his  raven  beard,  and,  with  his  wrinkled 
neck  bent  to  the  right,  swept  the  scythe 
through  the  grass.  A  seven-foot  semicircle  of 
mown  grass  lay  at  his  feet. 

Eyes  half  closed,  Grigory  followed  in  his 
steps,  laying  the  grass  low  with  the  scythe.  The 
women's  aprons  blossomed  in  a  scattered  rain- 
bow before  him,  but  his  eyes  sought  only  one, 
a  white  one  with  an  embroidered  border;  he 
glanced  at  Aksinya  and  started  mowing  again, 
keeping  pace  with  his  father. 

Aksinya  was  continually  in  his  thoughts.  Half 
closing  his  eyes,  in  imagination  he  kissed  her 
and  spoke  to  her  in  burning  tender  words  that 
came  to  his  tongue  from  he  knew  not  where. 
Then  he  dropped  such  thoughts  and  stepped 
out  again  methodically,  one  .  . .  two  .  .  .  three; 
and  his   memory  slipped  in  fragments  of  the 

77 


Ji>ast,  Sitting  under  the  damp  hayrick  . . .  the 
moon  over  the  meadow  . . .  now  and  then  a  drop 
falling  from  the  bush  into  the  puddle  .  .  .  one 
.  .  .  two  .  .  .  three.  .  .  .  Good!  Ah,  that  had  been 
good ! 

He  heard  laughter  behind  him.  He  looked 
back:  Darya  lay  under  the  cart  and  Aksinya 
was  bending  over  her,  telling  her  something. 
Darya  waved  her  arms,  and  again  they  both 
laughed.  Dunya  was  sitting  on  the  shaft  and 
singing  in  a  shrill  voice. 

"I'll  get  to  that  bush,  then  I'll  sharpen  my 
scythe,"  Grigory  thought.  At  that  moment  he 
felt  the  scythe  pass  through  something  soft  and 
yielding.  He  bent  down.  A  little  wild  duckling 
went  scurrying  into  the  grass  with  a  squawk. 
By  the  hole  where  the  nest  had  been  another 
was  huddled,  cut  in  two  by  the  scythe,  the  rest 
of  the  brood  scattered  twittering  in  the  grass. 
He  lay  the  dead  bird  on  his  palm.  It  had  evi- 
dently come  from  the  egg  only  a  few  days  pre- 
viously; there  was  still  a  living  warmth  in  the 
down. 

On  the  flat,  half-open  beak  there  was  a  pink- 
ish bubble  of  blood,  the  beady  eyes  were 
puckered  slyly,  the  little  legs  were  still  warm 
and  quivering.  With  a  sudden  keen  feeling  of 
compassion  he  stared  at  the  inert  little  ball  ly- 
ing in  his  hand. 

78 


"What  have  you  found,   Grisha?'' 

Dunya  came  dancing  along  the  mown  alley, 
her  pigtails  tossing  on  her  breast.  Frowning, 
Grigory  threw  away  the  duckling  and  angrily 
wielded  his  scythe. 

Dinner  was  eaten  in  haste.  Bacon-fat  and  the 
Cossacks'  stand-by,  sour  skimmed  milk,  brought 
from  home  in  a  bag,  were  the  entire  meal. 

After  dinner  the  women  began  to  rake  the 
hay.  The  cut  grass  wilted  and  dried,  giving  off 
a  heavy,  stupefying  scent. 

"No  point  in  going  home!"  Pantelei  said  dur- 
ing dinner.  "We'll  turn  the  bullocks  out  to 
graze  in  the  forest,  and  tomorrow  as  soon 
as  the  dew  is  off  the  grass  we'll  finish  the 
mowing." 

Dusk  had  fallen  when  they  stopped  for  the 
day.  Aksinya  raked  the  last  rows  together,  and 
went  to  the  cart  to  cook  some  millet  mash.  All 
day  she  had  maliciously  made  fun  of  Grigory, 
gazing  at  him  with  eyes  full  of  hatred,  as 
though  in  revenge  for  some  great,  unforgettable 
injury.  Grigory,  gloomy  and  faded  somehow, 
drove  the  bullocks  down  to  the  Don  for  water. 
His  father  had  watched  him  and  Aksinya  all 
day.  Eyeing  Grigory  unpleasantly  he  said: 

"Have  your  supper,  and  then  guard  the  bul- 
locks. See  that  they  don't  get  into  the  grass! 
Take  my  sheepskin." 

79 


Darya  laid  her  child  under  the  cart  and  went 
into  the  forest  with  Dunya  for  brushwood. 

Over  the  meadow  the  waning  moon  mounted 
the  dark,  inaccessible  heaven.  A  snowstorm  of 
moths  whirled  around  the  flames.  Near  the  fire 
supper  was  laid  on  a  piece  of  coarse  cloth.  The 
millet  boiled  in  the  smoky  field-pot.  Wiping  a 
spoon  with  the  edge  of  her  underskirt,  Darya 
called  to  Grigory: 

"Come  and  have  your  supper." 

His  father's  sheepskin  draped  over  his  shoul- 
ders, Grigory  emerged  from  the  darkness  and 
approached  the  fire. 

"What's  made  you  so  moody?"  Darya 
smiled. 

"Got  the  back-ache.  Must  be  going  to  rain," 
he  countered  lightly, 

"He  doesn't  want  to  watch  the  bullocks," 
Dunya  laughed,  and,  sitting  down  by  her 
brother,  she  tried  to  start  a  conversation.  But 
somehow  her  efforts  were  unsuccessful.  Pan- 
telei  supped  his  porridge,  crunching  the  under- 
cooked millet  with  his  teeth.  Aksinya  ate  with- 
out lifting  her  eyes,  smiling  half-heartedly  at 
Darya's  jokes.  A  troubled  flush  burned  in  her 
cheeks. 

Grigory  got  up  first  and  went  off  to  the  bul- 
locks. 

"Take  care  the  bullocks  don't  trample  some- 

80 


body  else's  grass,"  his  father  shouted  after  him, 
then  a  crumb  of  millet  stuck  in  his  throat  and 
for  a  long  time  he  coughed  raspingly.  Dunya's 
cheeks  swelled  as  she  tried  to  suppress  her 
laughter. 

The  fire  burned  low.  The  smouldering  brush- 
wood wrapped  the  little  group  in  the  honey 
scent  of  burning  leaves. 

At  midnight  Grigory  stole  up  to  the  camp, 
and  halted  some  ten  paces  away.  His  father  was 
snoring  tunefully  on  the  cart.  The  unquenched 
embers  stared  out  from  the  ash  with  golden 
peacock's  eyes. 

A  grey,  shrouded  figure  broke  away  from 
the  cart  and  came  slowly  towards  Grigory. 
Two  or  three  paces  away,  it  halted.  Aksinya! 
Grigory's  heart  thumped  fast  and  heavily;  he 
stepped  forward  crouchingly,  flinging  back  the 
edge  of  his  sheepskin,  and  pressed  her  com- 
pliant, burning  body  to  his  own.  Her  legs  bowed 
at  the  knees;  she  trembled,  her  teeth  chat- 
tering. Grigory  suddenly  flung  her  over  his  arm 
as  a  wolf  throws  a  slaughtered  sheep  across 
its  back,  and,  stumbling  over  the  trailing  edges 
of  his  open  coat,  and  panting  hard,  made  off. 

"Oh,  Grisha,  Grisha!  Your  father.  .  . ." 

"Quiet!" 

Tearing  herself  away,  gasping  for  breath  in 
the  sour  sheep's  wool,  choking  with  the  bitter- 

6—1933  81 


ness  of  regret,  Aksinya  cried  in  a  low  moaning 
voice  that  was  almost  a  shout: 

"Let  go,  what  does  it  matter  now. .  .?  I'll  go 
of  my  own  accord." 

X 

Not  azure  and  poppy-red,  but  rabid  as  the 
wayside  henbane  is  a  woman's  belated  love. 

After  the  mowing  Aksinya  was  a  changed 
woman:  as  though  someone  had  set  a  mark  on 
her  face,  branded  her.  When  other  women  met 
her  they  smiled  slyly,  and  nodded  their  heads 
after  her.  The  girls  were  envious,  but  she  held 
her  happy,  shameful  head  proud  and  high. 

Soon  everybody  knew  of  her  affair  with  Gri- 
gory  Melekhov.  At  first  it  was  talked  about  in 
whispers-only  half-believed-but  after  the  vil- 
lage shepherd  had  seen  them  in  the  early  dawn 
by  the  windmill,  lying  under  the  moon  in  the 
young  rye,  the  rumour  spread  like  a  wave 
breaking  turbidly  on  the  shore. 

It  reached  Pantelei's  ears  also.  One  Sunday  he 
happened  to  go  along  to  Mokhov's  shop.  The 
throng  was  so  great  that  no  more  could  have 
crowded  through  the  door.  He  entered,  and 
everybody  seemed  to  be  making  way  for  him, 
smiling  at  him.  He  pushed  towards  the  counter 
where  the  draperies  were  sold.  The  master,  Ser- 

82 


gei  Platonovich  Mokhov,  took  it  upon  himself 
to  attend  to  the  old  man. 

"Where  have  you  been  all  this  long  while, 
Prokofyevich?"  he  asked. 

"Too  much  to  do.  Troubles  with  the  farm." 
"What?  Sons  like  yours,  and  troubles?" 
"What  of  my  sons?  I've  seen    Pyotr  off  to 
camp,  there's  only  me  and  Grisha  to  do  every- 
thing." 

Mokhov  divided  his  stiff,  ruddy  beard  into 
two  with  his  fingers  and  glanced  significantly 
out  of  the  corner  of  his  eye  at  the  crowd  of 
Cossacks. 

"Oh,  yes,  old  man,  and  why  haven't  you  told 
us  anything  about  it?" 
"About  what?" 

"How  d'you  mean,  what?  Thinking  of  marry- 
ing your  son,  and  not  a  word  to  anybody!" 
"Which  son?" 

"Why,  your  son  Grigory  isn't  married." 
"And  I'm  not  thinking  of  marrying  him  yet." 
"But  I've  heard  that  you're  getting  yourself 
a  daughter-in-law  .  .  .  Stepan  Astakhov's  Aksi- 
nya." 

"What?   With    her    husband    alive. .  . ,  Why, 

Platonovich,  you  must  be  joking!  Aren't  you?" 

"Joking?  But  I've  had  it  from  others." 

Pantelei  smoothed  out  the  piece  of  material 

spread  over  the  counter,  then,  turning  sharply, 

6*  83 


limped  towards  the  door.  He  made  straight  for 
home.  He  walked  with  his  head  lowered  like  a 
bull,  his  fingers  knotted  in  his  fist,  hobbling 
more  noticeably  on  his  lame  leg.  As  he  passed 
the  Astakhovs'  house  he  glanced  over  the  wat- 
tle fence:  Aksinya,  looking  young  and  smart, 
with  a  lithe  swing  in  her  hips,  was  going  into 
the  house  with  an  empty  bucket. 

"Hey,  wait!"  he  called,  and  stumped  in  at  the 
gate.  Aksinya  halted  and  waited  for  him.  They 
went  into  the  house.  The  cleanly-swept  earthen 
floor  was  sprinkled  with  red  sand;  on  the  bench 
in  the  corner  were  pasties  fresh  from  the  oven. 
A  smell  of  musty  clothes  and  sweet  apples  came 
from  the  best  room. 

A  tabby  cat  with  a  huge  head  purred  round 
Pantelei's  legs.  It  arched  its  back  and  pressed 
itself  against  his  boots.  With  a  fierce  kick  he 
sent  it  flying  against  the  bench. 

"What's  all  this  I  hear?  Eh?"  he  shouted 
looking  Aksinya  straight  in  the  eyes.  "Your 
husband  hardly  out  of  sight,  and  you  already 
setting  your  cap  at  other  men!  I'll  make 
Grisha's  blood  flow  for  this,  and  I'll  write  to 
your  Stepan!  Let  him  hear  of  it!  You  whore, 
haven't  you  been  beaten  enough!  Don't  set  your 
foot  inside  my  yard  from  this  day  on.  Carrying 
on  with  a  young  man,  and  when  Stepan  comes, 
I'll  have  to. .  . ." 

84 


Aksinya  listened  with  narrowed  eyes.  And 
suddenly  she  shamelessly  swung  the  hem  of  her 
skirt,  enveloped  Pantelei  in  the  smell  of  wom- 
an's clothes,  and  came  breasting  at  him  with 
writhing  lips  and  bared  teeth. 

"What  are  you,  my  father-in-law?  Eh?  Who 
are  you  to  teach  me?  Co  and  teach  your  own 
fat-bottomed  woman!  Keep  order  in  your  own 
yard!  You  limping,  stump-footed  devil!  Clear 
out  of  here,  you  won't  frighten  me!" 

"Wait,  you  daft  hussy!" 

"There's  nothing  to  wait  for!  Get  back  where 
you  came  from!  And  if  I  want  your  Grisha,  I'll 
eat  him,  bones  and  all,  and  answer  for  it  my- 
self! Chew  that  over!  What  if  I  love  Grisha? 
Beat  me,  will  you?  Write  to  my  husband?  Write 
to  the  ataman  if  you  like,  but  Grisha  belongs 
to  me!  He's  mine!  Mine!  I  have  him  and  I  shall 
keep  him!" 

Aksinya  pressed  against  the  quailing  Pantelei 
with  her  breast  (it  beat  against  her  thin  blouse 
like  a  bustard  in  a  noose),  seared  him  with  the 
flame  of  her  black  eyes,  overwhelmed  him  with 
more  and  more  terrible  and  shameless  words. 
His  eyebrows  quivering,  the  old  man  backed  to 
the  door,  groped  for  the  stick  he  had  left  in  the 
comer,  and  waving  his  hand,  pushed  open  the 
door  with  his  bottom,  Aksinya  pressed  him  out 
of  the  passage,  pantingly,  frenziedly  shouting: 

85 


"I'll  have  my  love,  I'll  make  up  for  all  the 
wrongs  I've  suffered!  And  then  kill  me  if  you 
like!  He's  my  Grisha!  Mine!" 

Muttering  something  into  his  beard,  Pantelei 
limped  off  to  his  house. 

He  found  Grigory  in  the  room.  Without  say- 
ing a  word,  he  brought  his  stick  down  over  his 
son's  back.  Doubling  up,  Grigory  hung  on  his 
father's  arm. 

"What's  that  for.  Father?" 

"For  your  goings-on,  you  son  of  a  bitch!" 

"What  goings-on?" 

"Don't  wrong  your  neighbour!  Don't  shame 
your  father!  Don't  run  after  women,  you  young 
buck!"  Pantelei  snorted,  dragging  Grigory,  who 
had  grabbed  the  stick,  around  the  room  trying 
to  wrest  it  from  him. 

"I'm  not  going  to  let  you  beat  me'"  Grigory 
cried  hoarsely,  and  setting  his  teeth,  he  tore  the 
stick  out  of  his  father's  hand.  Across  his  knee 
it  went,  and-snap! 

Pantelei  Prokofyevich  struck  him  on  the  neck 
with  his  hard  fist. 

"I'll  whip  you  in  public.  You  accursed  son 
of  the  devil!  I'll  marry  you  to  the  village  idiot! 
I'll  geld  you!"  his  father  roared. 

The  noise  brought  the  old  mother  running 
into  the  room. 

86 


"Pantelei,  Pantelei!  Cool  down  a  little!  Wait!" 

But  the  old  man  had  lost  his  temper  in  real 
earnest.  He  sent  his  wife  flying,  overturned  the 
table  with  the  sewing-machine  on  it,  and  victo- 
riously flew  out  into  the  yard.  Grigory,  whose 
shirt  had  been  torn  in  the  struggle,  had  not  had 
time  to  take  it  off  when  the  door  banged  open 
again,  and  his  father  appeared  once  more  like 
a  storm-cloud  on  the  threshold. 

"I'll  marry  him  off,  the  son  of  a  bitch!"  He 
stamped  his  foot  like  a  horse  and  fixed  his  gaze 
on  Grigory's  muscular  back.  "I'll  drive  off  to- 
morrow and  arrange  the  match.  To  think  that  I 
should  live  to  see  people  laugh  in  my  face 
about  my  son." 

"Let  me  get  my  shirt  on  first,  then  you  can 
marry  me  off." 

"I'll  marry  you  to  the  village  idiot!"  The  door 
slammed,  and  the  old  man  clattered  away  down 
the  steps. 

XI 

Beyond  the  village  of  Setrakov  the  carts  with 
tarpaulin  covers  stretched  in  rows  across  the 
steppe.  At  unbelievable  speed  a  neat,  white- 
roofed  little  town  had  grown  up,  with  straight 
streets  and  a  small  square  in  the  centre,  where 
a  sentry  stood  guard. 

87 


The  men  lived  the  usual  monotonous  life  of 
a  training  camp.  In  the  morning  the  detach- 
ment of  Cossacks  guarding  the  grazing  horses 
drove  them  into  the  camp.  Then  followed  clean- 
ing, grooming,  saddling,  the  roll-call,  and  mus- 
ter. The  staff  officer  in  command  of  the  camp, 
Lieutenant-Colonel  Popov,  bawled  stentoriously; 
the  sergeants  training  the  young  Cossacks  shout- 
ed their  orders.  They  staged  mock  attacks  on  a 
hill,  they  cunningly  encircled  the  "enemy." 
They  fired  at  targets.  The  younger  Cossacks  ea- 
gerly vied  with  one  another  in  the  sabre  exer- 
cises, and  the  old  hands  dodged  as  much  of  the 
training  as  they  could. 

While  voices  grew  hoarse  with  the  heat  and 
the  vodka,  a  fragrant  exciting  wind  blew  over 
the  long  lines  of  covered  wagons,  the  susliks 
whistled  in  the  distance,  and  the  steppe  beck- 
oned away  from  the  stuffiness  and  smoke  of  the 
whitewashed  huts. 

About  a  week  before  the  break-up  of  the 
camp  Andrei  Tomilin's  wife  came  to  visit  him. 
She  brought  him  some  home-made  cracknel,  an 
assortment  of  dainties  and  a  sheaf  of  village 
news. 

She  left  again  very  early  in  the  morning,  tak- 
ing the  Cossacks'  greetings  and  instructions  to 
their  families  and  relations  in  the  village.  Only 
Stepan  Astakhov  sent  no  message  back  by  her. 


He  had  fallen  ill  the  evening  before,  drunk 
vodka  to  cure  himself  and  was  incapable  of  see- 
ing anything  in  the  whole  wide  world,  including 
Tomilin's  wife.  He  did  not  turn  up  on  parade; 
at  his  own  request  the  doctor's  assistant  let  his 
blood,  setting  a  dozen  leeches  on  his  chest.  Ste- 
pan  sat  in  his  undershirt  against  the  wheel  of 
his  cart  (making  the  white  linen  cover  of  his  cap 
oily  with  cart  grease)  and  stared  sulkily  at  the 
leeches  sucking  at  his  barrel-like  chest  and 
swelling  with  dark  blood. 

The  regiment  medical  orderly  stood  by  smok- 
ing and  letting  the  smoke  filter  through  the 
wide  gaps  between  his  teeth. 

"Feel  any  better?" 

"They're  drawing  well.  Easier  for  the  heart 
somehow." 

"Leeches  are  a  great  thing!" 

Tomilin  came  up  and  gave  Stepan  a  wink. 

"Stepan,  I'd  like  a  word  with  you." 

Stepan  rose  with  a  grunt  and  took  Tomilin 
aside. 

"My  woman's  been  here  on  a  visit.  She  left 
this  morning." 

"Well?" 

"There's  a  lot  of  talk  about  your  wife  in  the 
village." 

"What?" 

"Not  pleasant  talk,  either." 

89 


"Well?" 

"She's  carrying  on  with  Grigory  Melekhov. 
Quite  openly." 

Turning  pale,  Stepan  tore  the  leeches  from 
his  chest  and  crushed  them  underfoot.  When  he 
had  crushed  the  last  one,  he  buttoned  up  his 
shirt,  and  then,  as  though  suddenly  afraid,  un- 
buttoned it  again.  His  chalky  lips  moved  inces- 
santly. They  trembled,  slipped  into  an  awk- 
ward smile,  then  shrivelled  and  gathered  into 
a  livid  pucker.  Tomilin  thought  Stepan  must  be 
chewing  something  hard  and  solid.  Gradually 
the  colour  returned  to  his  face,  the  lips,  caught 
by  his  teeth,  froze  into  immobility.  He  took  off 
his  cap,  smeared  the  grease  over  the  white  cover 
with  his  sleeve,  and  said  aloud:  "Thanks  for  the 
news." 

"I  just  wanted  to  warn  you.  . . .  You  won't 
hold  it  against  me." 

Tomilin  clapped  his  hands  against  his  trou- 
sers in  a  gesture  of  sympathy,  and  went  off  to 
his  horse.  A  sound  of  voices  and  shouting  was 
heard  from  the  camp,  the  Cossacks  had  re- 
turned from  the  sabre  exercises,  Stepan  stood 
for  a  moment  staring  fixedly  and  sternly  at  the 
black  smear  on  his  cap. 

A  half-crushed,  dying  leech  crawled  up  his 
boot. 


90 


XII 


In  ten  more  days  the  Cossacks  would  be  re- 
turning from  camp.  Aksinya  lived  in  a  frenzy  of 
belated  bitter  love.  Despite  his  father's  threats, 
Grigory  slipped  out  and  went  to  her  at  night, 
coming  home  at  dawn. 

In  two  weeks  he  had  drained  his  strength, 
like  a  horse  striving  beyond  its  powers.  From 
lack  of  sleep  his  brown  face  was  suffused  under 
the  high  cheek-bones  with  a  blue  tinge,  his 
tired  eyes  gazed  wearily  out  of  their  sunken 
sockets.  Aksinya  went  about  with  her  face  com- 
pletely uncovered,  the  deep  hollows  under  her 
eyes  darkened  funereally;  her  swollen,  avid  lips 
smiled  with  a  restless  challenge. 

So  extraordinary  and  open  was  their  mad  as- 
sociation, so  ecstatically  did  they  burn  with  a 
single,  shameless  flamie,  neither  conscience- 
stricken  nor  hiding  their  love  from  the  world, 
becoming  gaunt  and  dark  before  its  very  eyes, 
that  people  began  to  be  ashamed  to  meet  them 
in  the  street.  Grigory's  comrades,  who  previous- 
ly had  chaffed  him  about  Aksinya,  now  kept  si- 
lent and  felt  awkward  and  constrained  in  his 
company.  In  their  hearts  the  women  envied  Ak- 
sinya, yet  they  condemned  her,  gloating  at  the 
prospect  of  Stepan's  return,  and  pining  with  cu- 
riosity as  to  how  it  would  all  end. 

91 


If  Grigory  had  made  some  show  of  hiding 
from  the  world  his  affair  with  this  grass-widow, 
and  if  the  grass-widow  Aksinya  had  kept  her 
relations  with  Grigory  comparatively  secret, 
without  shunning  others,  the  world  would  have 
seen  nothing  unusual  in  it.  The  village  would 
have  gossiped  a  little  and  then  forgotten. 
But  they  lived  together  almost  openly,  they 
were  bound  by  something  greater,  which  had 
no  likeness  to  any  temporary  association, 
and  for  that  reason  the  villagers  decided  it  was 
immoral  and  held  their  breath  in  peeping 
expectation.  Stepan  would  return  and  cut  the 
knot. 

Over  the  bed  in  the  Astakhovs'  bedroom  ran 
a  string  threaded  with  empty  white  and  black 
cotton-reels.  They  hung  there  for  decoration. 
The  flies  spent  their  nights  on  the  reels,  and  spi- 
ders' webs  stretched  from  them  to  the  ceiling. 
Grigory  was  lying  on  Aksinya's  bare,  cool  arm 
and  gazing  up  at  the  chain  of  reels.  With  the 
toil-roughened  fingers  of  her  other  hand  Aksi- 
nya was  playing  with  the  thick  strands  of  hair 
on  his  head.  Her  fingers  smelt  of  warm  milk; 
when  Grigory  turned  his  head,  pressing  his 
nose  into  Aksinya's  armpit,  the  pungent, 
sweetish  scent  of  woman's  sweat  flooded  his 
nostrils. 

92 


In  addition  to  the  wooden,  painted  bedstead 
with  pointed  pine  cones  at  the  comers,  the  room 
contained  a  capacious  iron-bound  chest  that 
stood  close  to  the  door,  holding  Aksinya's  dowry 
and  all  her  finery.  In  the  corner  was  a  table,  an 
oleograph  of  General  Skobelev  riding  towards 
a  row  of  flapping  banners  dipped  before  him, 
two  chairs,  and  above  them  icons  in  gawdy  pa- 
per aureoles.  Along  the  side  wall  hung  fly-blown 
photographs.  One  was  a  grotip  of  Cossacks,  with 
curly  forelocks,  swelling  chests  decorated  with 
watch  chains,  and  drawn  swords-Stepan  and 
his  comrades  on  active  service.  On  a  hook  hung 
Stepan's  uniform,  it  had  not  been  put  away.  The 
moon  stared  through  the  window  and  uncertain- 
ly fingered  the  two  white  sergeant's  straps  on 
the  shoulder. 

With  a  sigh  Aksinya  kissed  Grigory  on  the 
bridge  of  his  nose,  between  his  eyebrows. 

"Grisha,  my  love." 

"What?" 

"Only  nine  days  left." 

"That's  not  so  soon." 

"What  am  I  to  do,  Grisha?" 

"How  should  I  know?" 

Aksinya  restrained  a  sigh  and  again  smoothed 
and  parted  Grigory's  matted  hair. 

"Stepan  will  kill  me,"  she  half-asked,  half- 
declared. 

93 


Grigory  was  silent.  He  wanted  to  sleep.  With 
difficulty  he  forced  open  his  clinging  eyelids 
and  saw  above  him  the  glittering  bluish  black- 
ness of  Aksinya's  eyes. 

"When  my  husband  comes  back,  you'll  give 
me  up,  won't  you?  You'll  be  afraid?" 

"Why  should  I  be  afraid  of  him?  You're  his 
wife,  it's  for  you  to  be  afraid." 

"When  I'm  with  you  I'm  not  afraid,  but  when 
I  think  about  it  in  the  daytime  I  am." 

Grigory  yawned  and  said:  "It  doesn't  matter 
so  much  about  Stepan  coming  back.  My  father's 
talking  of  getting  me  married  off." 

He  smiled  and  was  going  to  add  something, 
but  he  felt  Aksinya's  hand  under  his  head  sud- 
denly wilt  and  soften,  bury  itself  in  the  pillow, 
and  after  a  moment  harden  again. 

"Who  has  he  got  in  mind?"  she  asked  in  a 
stifled  voice, 

"He's  only  talking  about  it.  Mother  says  he's 
thinking  of  Korshunov's  Natalya." 

"Natalya  .  .  .  she's  a  good-looking  girl.  Very 
good-looking.  .  . .  Well,  go  ahead  and  marry  her. 
I  saw  her  in  church  the  other  day.  Dressed  up 
she  was.  .  .  ."  Aksinya  spoke  rapidly,  but  he 
could  scarcely  hear  her,  her  voice  was  so  life- 
less and  dull, 

"I  don't  care  two  pins  about  her  good  looks. 
I'd  like  to  marry  you." 

94 


Aksinya  sharply  pulled  her  arm  from  undef 
Grigory's  head  and  stared  with  dry  eyes  at  the 
window.  A  frosty,  yellow  mist  was  in  the  yard. 
The  shed  cast  a  heavy  shadow.  The  crickets 
were  chirruping.  Down  by  the  Don  the  bitterns 
boomed;  their  deep  sullen  tones  floated  through 
the  bedroom  window. 

"Grisha!" 

"Thought  of  something?" 

Aksinya  seized  Grigory's  rough,  unyielding 
hands,  pressed  them  to  her  breast,  and  to  her 
cold,  almost  lifeless  cheeks,  and  cried: 

"What  did  you  take  up  with  me  for,  curse 
you!  What  shall  I  do?  Grisha!  I'm  finished.  .  .  . 
Stepan  is  coming  back,  and  what  shall  I  tell 
him.  .  .?  Who  is  there  to  help  me?" 

Grigory  was  silent.  Aksinya  gazed  mournful- 
ly at  his  handsome  eagle  nose,  his  shadowed 
eyes,  his  dumb  lips. .  . .  And  suddenly  a  flood  of 
feeling  swept  away  the  dam  of  restraint.  Mad- 
ly she  kissed  his  face,  his  neck,  his  arms,  the 
rough,  curly  black  hair  on  his  chest,  and  Gri- 
gory felt  her  body  trembling  as,  gasping  for 
breath,  she  whispered: 

"Grisha .  .  .  my  dearest .  .  ,  beloved  .  .  .  let's  go 
away.  My  darling!  We'll  throw  up  everything 
and  go.  I'll  leave  my  husband  and  everything, 
so  long  as  you're  with  me. . . .  We'll  go  far  away, 

95 


to  the  mines.  I'll  love  you  and  care  for  you.  I've 
got  an  uncle  who  is  a  watchman  at  the  Paramo- 
nov  mines:  he'll  help  us. . . .  Grisha!  Oh,  say 
something!" 

Grigory  lay  thinking,  then  unexpectedly 
opened  his  burning  foreign-looking  eyes.  They 
were  laughing,  gleaming  derision. 

"You're  a  fool,  Aksinya,  a  fool!  You  talk 
away,  but  you  say  nothing  worth  listening  to. 
How  can  I  leave  the  farm?  I've  got  to  do  my 
military  service  next  year.  .  .  .  I'll  never  stir  any- 
where away  from  the  land.  Here  there  is  the 
steppe,  and  something  to  breathe-but  there? 
Last  simimer  I  went  with  Father  to  the  station. 
I  nearly  died.  Engines  roaring,  the  air  all  thick 
and  heavy  with  burning  coal.  How  people  live 
there,  I  don't  know;  perhaps  they're  used  to 
it!"  Grigory  spat  and  said  again:  "I'll  never 
leave  the  village." 

The  night  grew  darker  outside  the  window,  a 
cloud  passed  over  the  moon.  The  frosty,  yellow 
mist  vanished  from  the  yard,  the  shadows  were 
washed  away,  and  now  there  was  no  telling 
whether  it  was  last  year's  faggots  or  some  old 
bush  that  loomed  darkly  beyond  the  fence  out- 
side the  window. 

The  room,  too,  grew  darker.  The  stripes  on 
Stepan's  uniform  faded,  and  in  the  grey,  stag- 
nant murk  Grigory  did  not  see  the  fine  shiver  that 

96 


shook  Aksinya's  shoulders,  or  her  head  pressed 
between  her  hands  and  silently  shaking  on  the 
pillow. 

XIII 

After  the  visit  of  Tomilin's  wife  Stepan's  fea- 
tures became  distinctly  less  handsome.  His  brows 
drooped  over  his  eyes,  a  deep  and  harsh  frown 
puckered  his  forehead.  He  spoke  little  with  his 
comrades,  began  to  quarrel  over  trifles,  had  a 
cross  with  the  sergeant-major  and  would  hardly 
look  at  Pyotr  Melekhov.  The  threads  of  friend- 
ship which  had  previously  united  them  were 
snapped.  In  his  sullen,  seething  rage  Stepan 
plunged  downhill  like  a  bolting  horse.  They  re- 
turned home  enemies. 

Of  course  something  had  to  happen  that 
brought  the  vague  hostility  of  their  relations  to  a 
head.  They  set  out  for  their  village  in  the  same 
group  as  before.  Pyotr's  and  Stepan's  horses 
were  harnessed  to  the  wagon.  Christonya  rode 
behind  on  his  own  horse.  Tomilin,  who  was  suf- 
fering from  fever,  lay  covered  with  his  greatcoat 
in  the  wagon.  Fedot  Bodovskov  was  too  lazy  to 
drive,  so  Pyotr  took  the  reins.  Stepan  walked 
along  at  the  side  of  the  wagon,  lashing  off  the 
purple  heads  of  the  roadside  thistles  with  his 
whip.  Rain  was  falling.  The  rich     black    earth 

7—1933  97 


stuck  to  the  wheels  like  tar.  The  sky  was  an  au- 
tumnal blue,  ashy  with  cloud.  Night  fell.  No 
lights  of  any  village  were  to  be  seen.  Pyotr  be- 
laboured the  horses  liberally  with  the  knout. 
And  suddenly  Stepan  shouted  in  the  darkness: 

"You,  what  the  .  .  .  you  .  .  . !  You  spare  your 
own  horse,  but  keep  the  knout  on  mine  all  the 
time." 

"Keep  your  eyes  open!  I  whip  the  one  that 
doesn't  pull." 

"Mind  I  don't  put  you  in  the  shafts.  That's 
what  Turks  are  good  for." 

Pyotr  threw  the  reins  down. 

"What  do  you  want?" 

"Oh,  stay  where  you  are." 

"Shut  up." 

"What  are  you  flaring  up  at  him  for?"  asked 
Christonya,  riding  up  to  Stepan. 

Stepan  did  not  reply.  They  rode  on  for  another 
half  hour  in  silence.  The  mud  squelched  under 
the  wheels.  The  rain  pattered  drowsily  on  the 
tarpaulin.  Pyotr  dropped  the  reins  and  smoked, 
running  over  in  his  mind  all  the  insulting  words 
he  would  use  in  the  next  quarrel  with  Stepan. 

"Out  of  the  way.  I  want  to  get  under  cover." 
Stepan  pushed  Pyotr  aside  and  jumped  on  the 
step  of  the  cart. 

The  wagon  suddenly  jolted  and  stopped.  Slip- 
ping in  the  mud,  the  horses  pawed  the  earth. 

98 


Sparks  shov/ered  from  their  hoofs  and  the 
shaft  groaned. 

"Whoa!"  Pyotr  shouted  and  leaped  to  the 
ground. 

"What's  the  matter?"  Stepan  snapped  anx- 
iously. 

"Show  a  light,"  Pyotr  demanded. 

In  front  a  horse  was  struggling  and  snorting. 
Someone  struck  a  match.  A  tiny  orange  ring  of 
light,  then  darkness  again.  With  trembling  hands 
Pyotr  felt  the  spine  of  the  fallen  horse,  then 
pulled  at  the  bridle. 

The  horse  sighed  and  rolled  over,  the  centre- 
shaft  snapped  in  half.  Stepan  struck  a  bunch  of 
matches.  His  horse  lay  craning  her  neck  with 
one  foreleg  buried  to  the  knee  in  a  marmot's 
hole. 

Christonya  unfastened  the  traces. 

"Unharness  Pyotr's  horse,  look  snappy,"  he 
ordered. 

"Whoa!  Easy  there!  Easy!" 

At  last  Stepan's  horse  was  lifted  with  difficul- 
ty to  its  feet.  While  Pyotr  held  it  by  the  bridle, 
Christonya  crawled  on  his  knees  in  the  mud, 
feeling  the  helplessly-hanging  leg. 

"Seems  to  be  broken,"  he  boomed. 

"See  if  he  can  walk." 

Pyotr  pulled  at  the  bridle.  The  horse  hopped 
a  step  or  two,  not  putting  its  left  foreleg  to  the 

7*  99 


ground,  and  whinnied.  Drawing  on  his  great- 
coat, Tomilin  stamped  about  bitterly. 

"Broken,  damn  it!  A  horse  lost!" 

Stepan,  who  all  this  time  had  not  spoken  a 
word,  almost  seemed  to  have  been  awaiting  such 
a  remark.  Thrusting  Christonya  aside  he  flung 
himself  on  Pyotr,  He  aimed  at  his  head,  but 
missed  and  struck  his  shoulder.  They  grappled 
together  and  fell  into  the  mud.  There  was  the 
sound  of  a  tearing  shirt.  Stepan  got  Pyotr  under 
him,  and  holding  his  head  down  with  one  knee, 
pounded  away  with  his  fists.  Christonya 
dragged  him  off  cursing. 

"What's  that  for?"  Pyotr  shouted,  spitting 
blood. 

"Look  where  you  drive,  you  snake!" 

Pyotr  tried  to  tear  himself  out  of  Christonya's 
hands. 

"Now  then!  You  try  fighting  me!"  Christonya 
roared,  holding  Pyotr  with  one  hand  against  the 
wagon. 

They  harnessed  Bodovskov's  small  but  sturdy 
horse  with  Pyotr's.  Christonya  gave  his  horse  to 
Stepan  to  ride,  and  himself  crawled  into  the  cart 
with  Pyotr.  It  was  midnight  when  they  arrived 
at  a  village.  They  stopped  at  the  first  house,  and 
Christonya  asked  for  a  night's  shelter. 

Ignoring  the  dog  snapping  at  the  skirts  of  his 
coat,  he  squelched  through  the  mud  to  the  win- 

100 


dow,  opened  the  shutter,  and  scratched  at  the 
pane  with  a  horny  fingernail. 

"Master!" 

Only  the  whisper  of  the  rain  and  a  peal  of 
barking. 

"Master!  Good  folk,  hi!  Let  us  in  for  the 
night,  for  Christ's  sake.  Eh?  From  the  training 
camp.  How  many?  Five  of  us.  Well,  Christ  save 
you." 

"Drive  in!"  he  shouted  turning  to  the  gate. 

Bodovskov  led  the  horses  in.  He  stumbled 
over  a  pig's  trough  thrown  down  in  the  middle 
of  the  yard,  and  cursed  vigorously.  They  led  the 
horses  into  a  shed.  Tomilin,  his  teeth  chattering, 
went  into  the  house,  Pyotr  and  Christonya  re- 
mained in  the  cart. 

At  dawn  they  made  ready  to  set  out  again. 
Stepan  came  out  of  the  house,  an  old  hunch- 
backed woman  hobbling  after  him.  Christonya, 
who  was  harnessing  the  horses,  shouted  sympa- 
thetically: 

"Ho,  granny,  what  a  hump  they've  given  you! 
Bet  you're  all  right  at  bowing  down  in  church. 
You  don't  have  far  to  bend  to  reach  the  floor!" 

"If  I'm  good  for  bowing  down,  you're  good 
for  hanging  dogs  on,  my  lad.  There's  something 
for  all  of  us,"  the  old  woman  smiled  severely, 
surprising  Christonya  with  a  full  row  cf  small 
sound  teeth. 

101 


"And  what  teeth  you've  got,  like  a  pike!  Won't 
you  give  me  a  few?  Here  am  I,  a  young  man, 
and  nothing  to  chew  with." 

"What  shall  I  have  left  for  myself,  my  dear?" 

"We'll  give  you  a  horse's  set,  gran.  You've 
got  to  die  one  day  and  they  don't  look  at  your 
teeth  in  the  next  world.  The  saints  aren't  horse- 
dealers,  you  know." 

"Keep  it  up,  Christonya,"  Tomilin  grinned  as 
he  climbed  into  the  cart. 

The  old  woman  followed  Stepan  into  the  shed. 

"Which  one  is  it?" 

"The  black,"  sighed  Stepan. 

The  woman  laid  her  stick  on  the  ground,  and 
with  an  unexpectedly  strong,  masculine  move- 
ment raised  the  horse's  damaged  leg.  She  felt 
the  knee-cap  carefully  with  her  thin,  crooked 
fingers.  The  horse  set  back  its  ears  and  reared 
on  to  its  hindlegs  with  the  pain. 

"No,  there's  no  break  there,  Cossack.  Leave 
him  and  I'll  heal  him." 

Stepan  waved  his  hand  and  went  to  the  cart. 

"Will  you  leave  him  or  not?"  the  old  woman 
watched  him  narrowly. 

"Let  him  stay,"  he  replied. 

"She'll  heal  him  for  you.  He  won't  have  any 
legs  left  when  you  come  back.  The  vet's  a 
hunchback  herself,"  Christonya  said  booming 
with  laughter. 

W2 


XIV 

"Oh  how  I  long  for  him,  granny  dear!  I'm 
withering  away  before  my  own  eyes.  I  can't 
put  tucks  into  my  skirt  fast  enough.  Every  time 
he  goes  past  the  house  my  heart  burns.  I'd  fall 
to  the  ground  and  kiss  his  footprints.  Help  me! 
They're  going  to  marry  him  off.  .  .  .  Help  me, 
dear.  .  , .  Whatever  it  costs,  I'll  give  you.  . .  . 
I'll  give  you  my  last  shirt,  only  help  me!" 

With  luminous  eyes  set  in  a  lacework  of  fur- 
rows the  old  crone  Drozdikha  looked  at  Aksi- 
nya,  shaking  her  head  at  the  bitter  story. 

"Which  lad  is  it?" 

"Pantelei  Melekhov's." 

"That's  the  Turk,  isn't  it?" 

"Yes." 

The  old  woman  chewed  away  with  her  tooth- 
less gums,  and  hesitated  with  her  answer. 

"Come  to  me  very  early  tomorrow,  child,  as 
soon  as  day  is  dawning.  We'll  go  down  to  the 
Don,  to  the  water.  We'll  wash  away  your  yearn- 
ing. Bring  a  pinch  of  salt  with  you." 

Aksinya  wrapped  herself  in  her  yellow  shawl 
and  with  drooping  shoulders  walked  out 
through  the  gate.  Her  dark  figure  was  swallowed 
up  in  the  night,  and  the  only  sound  was  of  her 
sandals  scraping  dryly  on  the  earth.  Then  her 
steps  died  away.  From  somewhere     at  the  end 

103 


of  the  village  came  sounds  of  brawling  and 
singing. 

At  dawn,  Aksinya,  who  had  not  slept  all 
night,  was  at  Drozdikha's  window. 

"Granny!" 

"Who's  there?" 

"It's  me,  Aksinya!  Get  up!" 

They  made  their  way  by  back  lanes  down 
to  the  river.  The  abandoned  shafts  of  a  wagon 
lay  water-logged  near  the  landing  stage.  At  the 
water's  edge  the  sand  stung  their  bare  feet  icily. 
A  damp,  chilly  mist  crept    up    from    the    Don. 

Drozdikha  took  Aksinya's  hand  in  her  own 
bony  hand  and  drew  her  to  the  water. 

"Give  me  the  salt.  Cross  yourself  to  the 
sunrise." 

Aksinya  crossed  herself,  staring  fiercely  at 
the  happy  rosiness  of  the  east. 

"Take  up  some  water  in  your  palm  and 
drink." 

Aksinya  drank,  wetting  the  sleeves  of  her 
blouse.  Like  a  black  spider  the  old  woman 
straddled  the  lapping  waves,  squatted  down, 
and  began  to  whisper. 

"Icy  streams  from  the  deep.  .  .  .  Sorrowing 
flesh.  ...  A  beast  in  the  heart.  . .  .  Yearning  and 
fever.  ...  By  the  holy  cross,  by  the  pure  and 
holy  Mother.  ,  .  .  The  slave  of  God,  Grigo- 
ry  .  .  ."   reached  Aksinya's  ears. 

104 


Drozdikha  sprinkled  some  salt  over  the  damp 
sand  at  her  feet  and  some  more  into  the  water, 
then  put  the  rest  in  Aksinya's  bosom. 

"Sprinkle  some  water  over  your  shoulder. 
Quickly!" 

Aksinya  did  so.  She  stared  moodily  and  an- 
grily at  Drozdikha's  russet  cheeks. 

"Is  that  all?" 

"Yes,  that's  all.  Go  and  sleep." 

Aksinya  ran  breathlessly  home.  The  cows 
were  lowing  in  the  yard.  Darya,  sleepy-eyed 
and  flushed,  was  driving  her  cows  off  to  join 
the  village  herd.  She  smiled  as  she  saw  Aksi- 
nya run  past. 

"Slept  well,   neighbour?" 

"Praise  be!" 

"And  where  have  you  been  so  early?" 

"I  had  a  call  to  make  in  the  village." 

The  church  bells  were  ringing  for  matins. 
The  copper-tongued  clapping  broke  apart  in 
splashes  of  sound.  The  village  herdsman  cracked 
his  stockwhip  in  the  side-street.  Aksinya 
hurriedly  drove  out  the  cows,  then  carried  the 
milk  into  the  porch  to  strain  it.  She  wiped  her 
hands  on  her  apron,  and,  lost  in  thought, 
poured  the  milk  into  the  strainer. 

A  heavy  rattle  of  wheels  and  snorting  of 
horses  in  the  street.  Aksinya  set  down  the  pail 
and   went   to   look   out   of   the  front   window. 

105 


Holding  his  sabre  pommel,  Stepan  was  coming 
through  the  wicket-gate.  The  other  Cossacks 
were  galloping  away  towards  the  village 
square.  Aksinya  crumpled  her  apron  in  her  fin- 
gers and  sat  down  on  the  bench.  Steps  in  the 
porch.  .  .  .  Steps  in  the  passage. .  . .  Steps  at  the 
very  door.  .  . . 

Stepan  stood  on  the  threshold,  gaunt  and 
estranged. 

"Well?" 

Aksinya,  all  her  full,  buxom  body  reeling, 
went  to  meet  him. 

"Beat  me,"  she  said  slowly,  and  turned  side- 
ways towards  him. 

"Well,   Aksinya?" 

"I  shan't  hide.  I  have  sinned.  Beat  me,  Ste- 


pan 


I" 


Her  head  drawn  into  her  shoulders,  crouch- 
ing down  and  protecting  only  her  belly  with 
her  arms,  she  faced  him.  Her  eyes  stared  un- 
blinkingly  from  their  dark  sockets,  out  of  her 
dumb,  fear-distorted  face.  Stepan  swayed  and 
walked  past  her.  His  unwashed  shirt  smelled 
of  male  sweat  and  bitter  roadside  scents.  He 
dropped  on  to  the  bed  without  removing  his 
cap.  He  lay  for  a  moment,  then  jerked  his  shoul- 
ders, and  threw  off  his  sword-belt.  His  blond 
usually  crisp  moustache  drooped  limply.  Not 
turning  her  head,  Aksinya  glanced  sidelong  at 

106 


him.  Now  and  then  she  shuddered.  Stepan  put 
his  feet  on  the  foot  of  the  bed.  The  mud  slowly 
oozed  from  his  boots.  He  stared  at  the  ceiling 
and  toyed  with  the  leather  tassel  of  his  sword. 

"Breakfast  ready?" 

"No. . . ." 

"Get  me  something  to  eat." 

He  sipped  some  milk,  wetting  his  moustache. 
He  chewed  slowly  at  the  bread.  Aksinya  stood 
by  the  stove.  In  burning  terror  she  watched  her 
husband's  little  gristly  ears  rising  and  falling 
as  he  ate. 

Stepan  rose  from  the  table  and  crossed  him- 
self. 

"Come  on,  m'dear,  tell  me  about  it,"  he  curt- 
ly demanded. 

With  bowed  head  Aksinya  cleared  the  table. 
She  was  silent. 

"Tell  me  how  you  waited  for  your  husband, 
how  you  guarded  his   honour.  Well?" 

A  terrible  blow  on  the  head  tore  the  ground 
from  under  Aksinya's  feet  and  flung  her  to- 
wards the  door.  Her  back  struck  against  the 
door-post,  and  she  groaned  dully. 

Women  are  weak  and  soft  in  the  body,  but 
Stepan  could  send  lusty  and  sturdy  guardsmen 
flying  with  a  well-aimed  blow  on  the  head.  It 
may  have  been  fear  that  lifted  Aksinya,  or  per- 
haps it  was  a  woman's  will  to  live-she    cam^ 

107 


to  her  senses,  lay  a  moment,  resting,  then 
scrambled  on  to  all  fours. 

Stepan  was  lighting  a  cigarette  in  the  middle 
of  the  room  and  did  not  see  her  rising  to  her 
feet.  He  threw  his  tobacco  pouch  on  the  table, 
but  Aksinya  had  already  slammed  the  door  be- 
hind her.  He  chased  after  her. 

Her  head  streaming  with  blood,  Aksinya  ran 
towards  the  fence  separating  their  yard  from 
the  Melekhovs'.  Stepan  overtook  her  at  the 
fence.  His  black  hand  fell  like  a  hawk  on  her 
head.  His  fingers  wound  into  her  hair.  He  tore 
at  it  and  threw  her  to  the  ground,  into  the  cin- 
ders that  Aksinya  dumped  by  the  fence  every 
day. 

What  if  a  husband  does  trample  his  wife  with 
his  boots,  his  hands  behind  his  back?  One- 
armed  Alexei  Shamil  walked  past  the  gate, 
looked  in,  blinked  and  parted  his  bushy  little 
beard  with  a  smile;  after  all  it  was  quite  under- 
standable why  Stepan  should  be  punishing  his 
lawfully-wedded  wife.  Shamil  was  tempted  to 
stop  to  see  whether  he  would  beat  her  to  death 
or  not,  but  his  conscience  would  not  allow  him. 
After  all,  he  wasn't  a  woman. 

Watching  Stepan  from  afar,  you  v/ould  have 
thought  he  was  doing  the  Cossack  dance.  And 
so  Grigory  thought,  as  through  the  window  he 
saw  Stepan  jumping    up    and    down.    But    he 

108 


looked  again,  and  flew  out  of  the  house.  Press- 
ing his  heavy  fists  against  his  chest,  he  ran  on 
his  toes  to  the  fence.  Pyotr  pounded  after  him. 

Over  the  high  fence  Grigory  flew  like  a  bird. 
He  charged  Stepan  from  behind  at  full  speed. 
Stepan  staggered  and  turning  round  came  at 
Grigory  like  a  bear. 

The  Melekhov  brothers  fought  desperately. 
They  pecked  at  Stepan  like  carrion-crows  at  a 
carcass.  Grigory  went  down  several  times  un- 
der Stepan's  rock-like  fist.  He  was  not  quite  a 
match  for  a  hardened  brawler  like  Stepan,  but 
the  stocky  agile  Pyotr,  although  he  bent  under 
the  blows  like  a  reed  before  the  wind,  stood 
firmly  on  his  feet. 

Stepan,  one  eye  flashing  (the  other  was  turn- 
ing the  colour  of  an  underripe  plum)  retreated 
to  the  steps. 

Christonya  happened  to  come  along  to  bor- 
row some  harness  from  Pyotr,  and  he  separat- 
ed them. 

"Stop  that!"  He  waved  his  arms.  "Break 
away,  or  I'll  report  it  to  the  ataman." 

Pyotr  carefully  spat  blood  and  half  a  tooth 
into  his  palm,  and  said  hoarsely: 

"Come  on,  Grigory.  We'll  get  him  some 
other  time." 

"Mind  I  don't  get  you!"  Stepan  threatened 
from  the  steps. 

t09 


"All  right,  all  right!" 

"And  no  'all  right'  about  it,  I'll  tear  your 
guts  out." 

"Is  that  serious  or  joking?" 

Stepan  came  swiftly  down  the  steps.  Grigory 
broke  forward  to  meet  him,  but  pushing  him 
towards  the   gate,   Christonya   promised: 

"Only  dare,  and  I'll  give  you  a  good  hid- 
ing." 

From  that  day  onward  the  hatred  between 
the  Melekhovs  and  Stepan  Astakhov  drew  it- 
self into  a  tight  knot.  Grigory  Melekhov  was 
fated  to  untie  that  knot  two  years  later  in 
East  Prussia,  near  the  town  of  Stolypin. 

XV 

"Tell  Pyotr  to  harness  the  mare  and  his  own 
horse." 

Grigory  went  out  into  the  yard.  Pyotr  was 
pushing  a  wagonette  out  of  the  lean-to  shed  by 
the  bam. 

"Dad  says  you've  got  to  harness  the  mare 
and  your  own  horse." 

"I  know  that  without  him  telling  me.  Tell 
him  to  mind  his  own  business,"  Pyotr  respond- 
ed, fixing  the  shaft-bow.  Pantelei,  solemn  as 
a  churchwarden  at  mass,  although  sweating  like 
a  bull,  sat  finishing  his  soup.  Dunya  was  watch- 

110 


ing  Grigory  alertly,  hiding  a  girlish  twinkle 
somewhere  in  the  shadowy  cool  of  her  long  up- 
turned lashes.  Ilyinichna,  large  and  portly 
in  her  lemon-yellow  Sunday  shawl,  a  motherly 
anxiety  lurking  at  the  corners  of  her  lips,  said 
to  the  old  man: 

"Stop  stuffing  yourself,  Prokofyevich.  One 
would  think  you  were  starving." 

"Won't  even  let  me  eat.  What  a  nagger  you 
are,  woman." 

Pyotr's  long,  wheaten-yellow  moustache  ap- 
peared at  the  door. 

"Your  carriage  is  ready,  if  you  please!" 

Dunya  burst  into  a  laugh,  and  hid  her  face 
in  her  sleeve.  Darya  passed  through  the  kitch- 
en and  looked  the  future  bridegroom  over 
with  a  flutter  of  her  fine  lashes. 

Ilyinichna's  shrewd  widow  cousin.  Auntie 
Vasilisa,  was  to  go  with  them  as  match-maker. 
She  was  the  first  to  perch  herself  on  the  wagon- 
ette, twisting  and  turning  her  head,  laughing, 
and  displaying  her  crooked  black  teeth  beneath 
the  pucker  of  her  lips. 

"Don't  show  your  teeth,  Vasilisa,"  Pantelei 
warned  her.  "You'll  ruin  everything.  Those 
teeth  of  yours  look  as  if  they  had  been  on  a 
night  out,  there's  not  one  that  can  stand  up 
straight." 

/// 


"Ah,  Cousin,  I'm  not  the  bridegroom-to- 
be.  . .  ." 

"Maybe  you're  not,  but  don't  laugh  all  the 
same.  What  teeth . . .  the  colour's  enough  to 
make  you  sick." 

Vasilisa  took  umbrage,  but  meanwhile  Pyotr 
had  opened  the  gate.  Grigory  sorted  out  the 
good-smelling  leather  reins  and  jumped  into 
the  driver's  seat.  Pantelei  and  Ilyinichna  sat 
side  by  side  at  the  back  just  like  newlyweds. 

"Whip'em  up!"  shouted  Pyotr,  letting  go  the 
halter. 

Grigory  bit  his  lips  and  lashed  the  horses. 
They  pulled  at  the  traces  and  started  off  with- 
out warning. 

"Look  out!  You'll  catch  your  wheel!"  Darya 
shrilled,  but  the  wagonette  swerved  sharply 
and,  bouncing  over  the  roadside  hummocks, 
rattled  down  the  street. 

Leaning  to  one  side,  Grigory  touched  up 
Pyotr's  lagging  horse  with  the  whip.  His  fa- 
ther held  his  beard  in  his  hand,  as  though 
afraid  that  the  wind  would  snatch  it  away. 

"Whip  up  the  mare!"  he  cried  hoarsely, 
leaning  over  Grigory's  shoulder.  With  the  lace 
sleeve  of  her  blouse  Ilyinichna  wiped  away 
the  tear  that  the  wind  had  brought  to  her  eye, 
and  blinked  at  Grigory's  blue  satin  shirt  flut- 
tering and  billowing  on  his  back.  The  Cossacks 

fl2 


along  the  road  stepped  aside  and  stood  star- 
ing after  them.  The  dogs  came  running  out  of 
the  yards  and  yelped  under  the  horses'  feet. 
Their  barking  was  drowned  in  the  rumble  of 
the  freshly-shod  wheels. 

Grigory  spared  neither  whip  nor  horses,  and 
within  ten  minutes  the  village  was  left  behind. 
Korshunov's  large  house  with  its  plank  fence 
soon  came  into  view.  Grigory  pulled  on  the  reins, 
and  the  wagonette,  breaking  off  its  iron  song 
right  in  the  middle,  suddenly  drew  up  at  the 
painted  finely-carved  gates. 

Grigory  remained  with  the  horses;  Pantelei 
limped  towards  the  steps.  Ilyinichna  and  Va- 
silisa  sailed  after  him  with  rustling  skirts.  The 
old  man  hurried,  afraid  of  losing  the  courage 
he  had  summoned  up  during  the  ride.  He 
stumbled  over  the  high  threshold,  knocked  his 
lame  leg,  and  frowning  with  pain  stamped  fu- 
riously up  the  well-swept  steps. 

He  and  Ilyinichna  entered  the  kitchen  almost 
together.  He  disliked  standing  at  his  wife's 
side,  as  she  was  taller  by  a  good  six  inches; 
so  he  stepped  a  pace  forward,  and  removing 
his  cap,  crossed  himself  before  the  blackened 
icon. 

"Good  health  to  you!" 

"Praise  be!"  the  master  of  the  house,  a  stocky, 
freckled  old  man  replied,  rising  from  the  bench. 

8—1933  113 


"Some  guests  for  you,  Miron  Grigoryevich," 
Pantelei  continued, 

"Guests  are  always  welcome.  Marya,  give  the 
visitors  something  to  sit  on." 

His  elderly,  flat-chested  wife  wiped  non-exist- 
ent dust  from  three  stools,  and  pushed  them 
towards  the  guests.  Pantelei  sat  down  on  the 
very  edge  of  one,  and  mopped  his  perspiring 
brow  with  his  handkerchief. 

"We've  come  on  business,"  he  began  without 
beating  about  the  bush.  At  this  point  Ilyinichna 
and  Vasilisa,  pulling  up  their  skirts,  also  sat 
down. 

"By  all  means.  On  what  business?"  the  mas- 
ter smiled. 

Grigory  entered,  stared  around  him  and  greet- 
ed the  Korshunovs.  A  deep  russet  spread 
across  Miron's  freckled  face.  Only  now  did  he 
guess  the  object  of  the  visit.  "Have  the  horses 
brought  into  the  yard.  Get  some  hay  put  down 
for  them,"  he  ordered  his  wife. 

"We've  just  a  little  matter  to  talk  over," 
Pantelei  went  on,  twisting  his  curly  beard  and 
tugging  at  his  ear-ring  in  his  agitation.  "You 
have  a  girl  unmarried,  we  have  a  son.  Couldn't 
we  come  to  some  arrangement?  We'd  like  to 
know.  Will  you  give  her  away  now,  or  not? 
Mebbe  we  might  become  relations?" 

114 


"Who  knows?"  Miron  scratched  his  bald 
spot.  "I  must  say,  we  weren't  thinking  of  giv- 
ing her  in  marriage  this  autumn.  We've  our 
hands  full  with  work  here,  and  she's  not  so 
very  old.  She's  only  just  past  her  eighteenth 
spring.  That's  right,  isn't  it,  Marya?" 

"That's  it." 

"She's  the  very  age  for  marriage,"  Vasilisa 
put  in.  "A  girl  soon  gets  too  old!"  She  fidget- 
ed on  her  stool,  prickled  by  the  besom  she 
had  stolen  from  the  porch  and  thrust  under  her 
jacket.  Tradition  had  it  that  match-makers  who 
stole  the  girl's  besom  were  never  refused. 

"We  had  proposals  for  our  girl  way  back  in 
early  spring.  Our  girl  won't  be  left  en  the 
shelf.  We  can't  grumble  to  the  good  God.  .  . . 
She  can  do  everything,  in  the  field  or  at 
home  .  .  ."  Korshunov's  wife  replied. 

"If  a  good  man  were  to  come  along,  you 
wouldn't  say  no,"  Pantelei  broke  into  the  wom- 
en's chatter. 

"It  isn't  a  question  of  saying  no,"  the  master 
scratched  his  head.  "We  can  give  her  away  at 
any  time." 

Pantelei  thought  he  was  going  to  be  refused 
and  got  ruffled. 

"Well,  it's  your  own  business,  of  course.  A 
man's  got  his  choice,  he  can  ask  where  he  likes. 
If  you're  keen  on  finding  some  merchant's  son, 

8*  115 


or  someone  of  that  kind,  it's  a  different  matter 
and  we  beg  your  pardon." 

The  negotiations  were  on  the  point  of  break- 
ing down.  Pantelei  began  to  get  agitated,  and 
his  face  flushed  a  beetroot  red,  while  the  girl's 
mother  clucked  like  a  sitting  hen  shadowed  by 
a  kite.  But  Vasilisa  intervened  in  the  nick  of 
time.  She  poured  out  a  flood  of  quiet,  soothing 
words,  like  salt  on  a  burn,  and  healed  the 
breach. 

"Now,  now,  my  dears!  Once  a  matter  like 
this  is  raised,  it  needs  to  be  settled  decently 
and  for  the  happiness  of  your  child.  Natalya 
now-why,  you  might  search  far  in  broad  day- 
light and  not  find  another  like  her!  Work  bums 
in  her  hands!  What  a  clever  young  woman! 
What  a  housewife!  And  as  for  her  looks,  you 
see  for  yourselves,  good  folk  .  .  ."  she  opened 
her  plump  arms  in  a  generous  sweep,  turning 
to  Pantelei  and  the  sulky  Ilyinichna.  "And  he's 
a  husband  worthy  of  any.  As  I  look  at  him  my 
heart  beats  with  yearning,  he's  so  like  my  late 
husband,  and  his  family  are  great  workers.  Ask 
anyone  in  these  parts  about  Prokofyevich.  In  all 
the  world  he's  known  as  an  honest  man  and  a 
kind  one.  ...  In  good  faith,  do  we  wish  evil  to 
our  children?" 

Her  chiding  little  voice  flowed  into  Pantelei's 
ears  like  syrup.  He  listened  and  thought  admir- 

116 


ingly  to  himself:  "Ah,  the  smooth-tongued  dev- 
il, how  she  talks!  Just  try  to  keep  up  with 
her!  Some  women  can  even  dumbfound  a  Cos- 
sack with  their  words.  . .  .  And  this  from  a  pet- 
ticoat!" He  was  lost  in  admiration  of  Vasilisa, 
who  was  now  oozing  praise  for  the  girl  and  her 
family  as  far  back  as  the  fifth  generation. 

"Of  course,  we  don't  wish  evil  to  our  child." 

"The  point  is  it's  early  to  give  her  in 
marriage,"  the  master  said  pacifically,  with 
a  smile. 

"It's  not  early!  Honest  to  God  it's  not  early," 
Pantelei  rejoined. 

"Sooner  or  later,  we  have  to  part  with  her," 
the  mistress  sobbed,  half-hypocritically,  half  in 
earnest. 

"Call  your  daughter,  Miron  Grigoryevich, 
and  let's  look  at  her." 

"Natalya!" 

A  girl  appeared  timidly  at  the  door,  her  dark 
fingers  fidgeting  with  the  frill  of  her  apron. 

"Come  in!  Come  in!  She's  shy,"  the  mother 
encouraged  her,  smiling  through  her  tears. 

Grigory  looked  at  her. 

Bold  grey  eyes  under  a  black  lace  scarf.  A 
small,  rosy  dimple  in  the  supple  cheek.  Gri- 
gory turned  his  eyes  to  her  hands:  they  were 
large  and  marred  with  hard  work.  Under  the 
short  green  jacket  embracing    the  strong  body, 

117 


the  small,  maidenly  firm  breasts  rose  outwards 
naively  and  pitifully,  and  their  sharp  little  nip- 
ples showed  like  buttons. 

In  a  moment  Grigory's  eyes  had  taken  her 
all  in,  from  the  head  to  the  long,  beautiful  legs. 
He  looked  her  over  as  a  horse-dealer  surveys 
a  mare  before  purchase,  thought:  "She'll  do," 
then  let  his  eyes  meet  hers.  The  simple,  sin- 
cere, slightly  embarrassed  gaze  seemed  to  be 
saying:  "Here  am  I  all,  as  I  am.  Judge  of  me 
as  you  wish."  "Splendid!"  Grigory  replied  with 
his  eyes  and  smile. 

"Well,  that's  all."  Her  father  waved  her 
out. 

As  she  closed  the  door  behind  her,  Natalya 
looked  at  Grigory  without  attempting  to  con- 
ceal her  smile  and  her  curiosity. 

"Listen,  Pantelei  Prokofyevich,"  Korshunov 
began,  after  exchanging  glances  with  his  wife. 
"You  talk  it  over,  and  we'll  talk  it  over  among 
the  family.  And  then  we'll  decide  whether  we'll 
call  it  a  match  or  not." 

As  he  went  down  the  steps  Pantelei  slipped 
in  a  last  word: 

"We'll  call  again  next  Sunday." 

Korshunov  remained  deliberately  silent,  pre- 
tending he  had  not  heard. 


118 


XVI 

Only  after  he  learned  of  Aksinya's  conduct  from 
Tomilin  did  Stepan,  nursing  his  pain  and  hatred 
in  his  soul,  realize  that  despite  his  poor  sort  of 
life  with  her  he  loved  her  with  a  dreary,  hate- 
ful love.  He  had  lain  in  the  wagon  at  night,  cov- 
ered with  his  greatcoat,  his  arms  locked  be- 
hind his  head,  and  thought  of  how  his  wife 
would  greet  him  on  his  return  home.  It  was 
as  if  he  had  a  scorpion  in  his  breast  in  place 
of  a  heart.  As  he  lay  thinking  over  a  thousand 
details  of  his  revenge  his  teeth  felt  as  if  they 
were  clogged  with  heavy  grains  of  sand.  The 
fight  with  Pyotr  had  spilled  his  anger.  When 
he  arrived  home  he  had  been  tired  out  and  Ak- 
sinya  had  got  off  lightly. 

From  the  day  of  his  homecoming  an  unseen 
spectre  dwelt  in  the  Astakhovs'  house.  Aksinya 
went  about  on  tiptoe  and  spoke  in  whispers, 
but  in  her  eyes,  sprinkled  with  the  ash  of  fear, 
lurked  a  small  spark,  left  from  the  flame  Gri- 
gory  had  kindled. 

As  he  watched  her,  Stepan  felt  rather  than 
saw  this.  He  tormented  himself.  At  night,  when 
the  drove  of  flies  had  fallen  asleep  on  the  cross- 
beam, and  Aksinya,  her  lips  trembling,  had 
made  the  bed,  he  pressed  his  horny  palm 
over  her  mouth  and  beat  her.   He     demanded 

119 


shameless  details  of  her  relations  with  Grigory. 
Aksinya  tossed  about  and  gasped  for  breath 
on  the  hard  bed  smelling  of  sheepskin.  Tired 
of  torturing  her  dough-soft  body,  he  passed 
his  hand  over  her  face,  seeking  for  tears.  But 
her  cheeks  were  bumingly  dry,  and  only  her 
jaws  worked  under  his  fingers. 

"Will  you  tell?" 

"No!" 

"I'll  kill  you!" 

"Kill  me,  kill  me,  for  the  love  of  Christ! 
This  isn't  life. .  .  ." 

Grinding  his  teeth,  Stepan  twisted  the  fine 
skin,  all  damp  with  sweat,  on  her  breast.  Ak- 
sinya  shuddered    and  groaned. 

"Does  it  hurt?"  Stepan  said  jocularly. 

"Yes,  it  hurts." 

"Do  you  think  it  didn't  hurt  me?" 

It  would  be  late  before  he  fell  asleep.  In  his 
sleep  he  clenched  his  fists.  Rising  on  her  el- 
bow, Aksinya  would  gaze  at  her  husband's  face, 
handsome  and  changed  in  slumber,  then  let 
her  head  fall  back  on  the  pillow,  and  whisper 
to  herself. 

She  hardly  saw  Grigory  now.  Once  she  hap- 
pened to  meet  him  down  by  the  Don.  Grigory 
had  been  watering  the  bullocks  and  was  com- 
ing up  the  slope,  waving  a  switch  and  staring 
at  his  feet.  Aksinya  was  going    down     to  the 

120 


Don.  She  saw  him,  and  felt  the  yoke  of  the 
buckets  turn  cold  in  her  hands  and  the  hot 
blood  beat  at  her  temples. 

Afterwards,  when  she  recalled  the  meeting,  she 
found  it  difficult  to  convince  herself  that  it  had 
really  happened.  Grigory  noticed  her  when  she 
had  all  but  passed  him.  At  the  insistent  creak- 
ing of  the  buckets  he  raised  his  head,  his  eye- 
brows quivered  and  he  smiled  stupidly.  Aksi- 
nya  gazed  straight  over  his  head  at  the  green 
waves  of  the  Don,  and  beyond  at  the  ridge  of 
the  sandy  headland.  A  burning  flush  wrung 
tears  from  her  eyes. 

"Aksinya!" 

She  walked  on  several  paces  and  stood  with 
her  head  bent  as  though  before  a  blow.  Angri- 
ly whipping  a  lagging  bullock,  he  said  with- 
out turning  his  head: 

"When  is  Stepan  going  out  to  cut  the  rye?" 

"He's  getting  ready  now." 

"See  him  off,  then  go  to  our  sunflower  patch 
and  I'll  come  along  after." 

Her  pails  creaking,  Aksinya  went  down  to 
the  Don.  The  foam  snaked  along  the  shore, 
a  yellow  flare  of  lace  on  the  green  hem  of  the 
wave.  White  sea-gulls  were  hovering  and  mew- 
ing above  the  river.  Over  the  surface  of  the 
water,  tiny  fish  sprinkled  in  a  silver  rain.  On 
the  other  side,  beyond  the  white  of  the  sandy 

121 


headland,  the  grey  tops  of  ancient  poplars  rose 
haughtily  and  sternly.  As  Aksinya  was  draw- 
ing water  she  dropped  her  pail.  She  pulled  up 
her  skirt  and  waded  in  up  to  her  knees.  The 
water  tickled  her  calves,  and  for  the  first  time 
since  Stepan's  return  she  laughed  quietly  and 
uncertainly. 

She  glanced  back  at  Grigory.  Still  waving 
his  switch,  he  was  slowly  climbing  the  slope. 
With  eyes  that  were  misty  with  tears  Aksinya 
caressed  his  strong  legs  as  they  confidently 
trod  the  ground.  His  broad  sharovari  tucked 
into  white  woollen  stockings  were  gay  with 
crimson  stripes.  On  his  back,  over  his  shoulder- 
blade,  fluttered  a  strip  of  freshly-torn  shirt,  and 
a  triangle  of  swarthy  flesh  showed  through  the 
hole.  With  her  eyes  Aksinya  kissed  this  tiny 
scrap  of  the  beloved  body  which  once  had  been 
hers;  and  tears  fell  on  her  pallid,  smiling  lips. 

She  set  her  pails  down  on  the  sand  to  hook 
them  on  to  the  yoke,  and  noticed  the  imprints 
of  Grigory's  shoes.  She  looked  stealthily  around: 
no  one  in  sight  except  some  boys  bathing 
from  the  distant  jetty.  She  squatted  down  and 
covered  the  footprint  with  her  palm;  then  rose, 
swung  the  yoke  across  her  shoulders,  and  has- 
tened home,  smiling  to  herself. 

Caught  in  a  muslin  mistiness,  the  sun  was 
passing  over  the  village.  Beyond  the  curly  flock 

122 


of  small  white  clouds  spread  a  deep,  cool,  azure 
pasture.  Over  the  burning  iron  roofs,  over  the 
deserted  dusty  streets,  over  the  farmyards  with 
their  parched,  yellow  grass,  hung  a  deathly 
sultriness. 

When  Aksinya  approached  the  steps  Stepan,  in 
a  broad-brimmed  straw  hat,  was  harnessing  the 
horses  to  the  reaping  machine.  "Pour  some  wa- 
ter into  the  pitcher." 

Aksinya  poured  a  pail  of  water  into  the 
pitcher  and  burned  her  fingers  on  the  hot  iron 
rim, 

"You  ought  to  have  some  ice  or  the  water 
will  get  warm  soon,"  she  said,  looking  at  her 
husband's  perspiring  back. 

"Go  and  borrow  some  from  the  Melekhovs. 
No,  don't  go,"  Stepan  shouted,  remember- 
ing. 

Aksinya  went  to  shut  the  wicket-gate.  Ste- 
pan lowered  his  eyes  and  snatched  up  the 
knout. 

"Where  are  you  going?" 

"To  shut  the  gate." 

"Come   back,    you   bitch.    I  told   you    not  to 

go." 

She  hurriedly  returned  to  the  steps  and  tried 
to  hang  her  yoke  on  the  rails,  but  her  hands 
were  trembling  too  much.  The  yoke  clattered 
down  the  steps. 

123 


Stepan  flung  his  tarpaulin  coat  over  the  front 
seat,  and  took  up  the  reins, 

"Open  the  gate." 

As  she  did  so,  she  ventured  to  ask:  "When 
will  you  be  back?" 

"By  evening.  I've  agreed  to  reap  with  Ani- 
kushka.  Take  the  food  along  to  him.  He'll  be 
coming  out  to  the  fields  when  he's  finished  at 
the  smith's." 

The  wheels  of  the  reaper  squeaked  as  they 
carved  into  the  grey  plush  of  the  dust.  Aksinya 
went  into  the  house  and  stood  a  moment  with 
her  hand  pressed  to  her  head,  then,  flinging  a 
kerchief  over  her  hair,  ran  down  to  the    river. 

"But  suppose  he  comes  back?  What  then?" 
the  thought  suddenly  burned  into  her  mind. 
She  stopped  as  though  she  saw  a  deep  pit  at 
her  feet,  glanced  back,  and  sped  almost  at  a 
run  along  the  river  bank  to  the  meadows. 

Fences.  Vegetable  patches.  A  yellow  sea  of 
sunflowers  outstaring  the  sun.  The  pale  green 
of  potato  plants.  There  were  the  Shamil  women 
hoeing  their  potato  patch;  bowed  backs  in  pink 
shifts,  hoes  rising  and  falling  sharply  on  the 
grey  earth.  Reaching  the  Melekhovs'  garden 
Aksinya  glanced  around,  then  lifted  the  wattle 
hasp  and  opened  the  gate.  She  followed  the 
path  to  the  green  stockade  of  sunflower  stems. 
Stooping,  she  pressed  into  the  midst  of  them, 

124 


smothering  her  face  with  golden  pollen,  then 
gathered  her  skirt  and  sat  down  on  the  weed- 
woven  ground. 

She  listened:  the  silence  rang  in  her  ears. 
From  somewhere  above  her  came  the  lonely 
drone  of  a  bee.  For  perhaps  half  an  hour  she 
sat  thus,  torturing  herself  with  doubt.  Would 
he  come?  She  was  about  to  go,  and  was  ad- 
justing her  kerchief,  when  the  gate  scraped 
heavily. 

"Aksinya!" 

"This  way." 

"So  you've  come!"  Rustling  the  leaves,  Gri- 
gory  approached  and  sat  down  at  her  side. 

"What's  that  on  your  cheek?" 

Aksinya  smeared  the  fragrant  golden  dust 
with  her  sleeve. 

"Must  be  from  the  sunflowers." 

"There  too,  under  your  eye." 

She  brushed  it  off. 

Their  eyes  met.  And  in  reply  to  Grigory's 
mute  inquiry,   she  broke  into  weeping. 

"I  can't  stand  it.  .  . .  I'm  lost,  Grisha." 

"What  does  he  do?" 

Fiercely  she  tore  open  the  collar  of  her 
blouse.  The  pink,  girlishly  swelling  breasts  were 
covered  with  cherry-blue  bruises. 

"Don't  you  know?  He  beats  me  every  day. 
He's  sucking  my  blood. .  .  .  And  you're  a  fine 

125 


one.  .  .  .  Soiled  me  like  a  dog,  and  off  you 
go.  .  .  .  You're  all. . .  ."  She  buttoned  her  blouse 
with  trembling  fingers,  and,  frightened  that 
he  might  be  offended,  glanced  at  his  averted 
face. 

"So  you're  trying  to  put  the  blame  on  me?" 
he  said  slowly,  biting  a  blade  of  grass. 

"And  aren't  you  to  blame?"  she  cried  fiercely. 

"A  dog  doesn't  worry  an  unwilling  bitch." 
Aksinya  hid  her  face  in  her  hands.  The  insult 
struck  home  like  a  hard,  calculated  blow. 

Grigory  frowned  and  glanced  sidelong  at 
her.  A  tear  was  trickling  between  her  first  and 
middle  fingers.  A  broken  dusty  sunray  gleamed 
on  the  transparent  drop,  and  dried  its 
damp  trace  on  her  skin. 

Grigory  could  not  endure  tears.  He  fidgeted 
impatiently,  ruthlessly  brushed  a  brown  ant 
from  his  trousers,  and  glanced  again  at  Aksi- 
nya. She  hadn't  moved;  but  three  runnels  of 
tears  were  now  chasing  down  the  back  of  her 
hand. 

"What's  the  matter?  Have  I  offended  you? 
Aksinya!  Now,  wait!  Stop,  I  want  to  say  some- 
thing." 

She  tore  her  hands  from  her  face.  "I  came 
here  to  get  advice.  What  did  you  do  it  for?  It's 
bitter  enough  as  it  is.  And  you. . .  /' 

126 


Grigory  flushed  with  remorse.  "Aksinya  .  .  . 
I  didn't  mean  to  say  that,  don't  take  on," 

"I  haven't  come  to  fasten  myself  on  you. 
You  needn't  be  afraid." 

At  that  moment  she  really  believed  that  she 
had  not  come  to  fasten  herself  on  Grigory,  but 
as  she  had  run  along  by  the  Don  she  had 
vaguely  thought:  "I'll  talk  him  round!  He  won't 
get  married.  Who  else  am  I  to  live  with?"  Then 
she  had  remembered  Stepan  and  had  obstinately 
shaken  her  head  to  drive  away  the  trou- 
blesome thought. 

"So  our  love  is  over?"  Grigory  asked,  and 
turned  on  to  his  stomach,  resting  on  one  elbow 
and  spitting  out  the  rosy  petals  of  the  bindweed 
flower  he  had  been  chewing. 

"What  do  you  mean-over?"  Aksinya  took 
alarm.  "What  do  you  mean?"  she  insisted,  try- 
ing to  look  into  his  eyes.  There  was  a  gleam  of 
bluish  white  as  he  turned  them  away. 

The  dry,  exhausted  earth  smelled  of  dust  and 
sun.  The  wind  rustled  among  the  big  green 
leaves.  For  a  moment  the  sun  was  darkened, 
overcast  with  a  fleeting  cloud;  and  over  the 
steppe,  over  the  village,  over  Aksinya's  moody 
head,  over  the  pink  cup  of  the  bindweed  flower, 
there  fell  a  smoky  shadow. 

Grigory  sighed  abruptly  and  lay  on  his  back, 
pressing  his  shoulder-blades  into  the  hot  soil. 

127 


"Listen,  Aksinya!"  he  began  slowly.  "This  is 
rotten  somehow.  .  .  .   I've  been  thinking.  .  .  ." 

From  the  vegetable  patch  came  the  creaking 
sound  of  a  cart,  and  a  woman's  voice:  "Gee  up, 
baldhead!" 

To  Aksinya  the  call  seemed  so  close  that  she 
dropped  flat  on  the  ground.  Raising  his  head, 
Grigory  whispered: 

"Take  your  kerchief  off.  It  shows  up.  . . .  They 
might  see  us." 

She  removed  her  kerchief.  The  burning  breeze 
wandering  among  the  sunflowers  played  with 
wisps  of  golden  down  on  her  neck.  The  noise 
of  the  cart  slowly  died  away. 

"Well,  this  is  what  I've  been  thinking,"  Gri- 
gory began  again.  Then,  more  animatedly: 
"What's  done  can't  be  undone.  Why  try  to 
fix  the  blame?  Somehow  we've  got  to  go  on 
living." 

Aksinya  listened  anxiously,  breaking  a  stalk 
in  her  hand  as  she  waited.  She  looked  into  Gri- 
gory's  face  and  caught  the  dry  and  sober  glitter 
of  his  eyes. 

"I've  been  thinking,  let  us  put  an  end  to  .  .  ." 

Aksinya  swayed.  Her  fingers  clawed  into  the 
tough  bindweed  as  she  waited  for  the  end  of  the 
sentence.  A  fire  of  terror  and  impatience  avidly 
licked  her  face,  her  mouth  went  dry.  She  thought- 
he  was  about  to  say,  "put  an  end  to  Stepan,"  but 

128 


impatiently  he  licked  his  dry  lips  (they  were 
working  fiercely)  and  said: 

".  .  .  put  an  end  to  this  affair.  Eh?" 

Aksinya  stood  up,  and  pressing  through  the 
swaying,  yellow  heads  of  the  sunflowers,  went 
towards  the  gate. 

"Aksinya!"  Grigory  called  chokingly. 

The  gate  creaked  heavily  in  reply. 

XVII 

Immediately  after  the  rye  was  cut,  and  before 
it  could  be  carried  to  the  barns,  the  wheat 
ripened.  In  the  clayey  fields  and  on  the  slopes  the 
parched  leaves  turned  yellow  and  curled  up  into 
tubes,  and  the  stalks,  having  served  their  pur- 
pose, withered. 

Everybody  boasted  of  the  good  harvest.  The 
ears  were  full,  the  grain  heavy  and  large. 

After  talking  the  matter  over  with  Ilyinichna, 
Pantelei  decided  that  if  the  Korshunovs  agreed 
to  the  match,  the  wedding  could  not  take  place 
before  the  6th  of  August.  He  had  not  yet  called 
on  the  Korshunovs  for  an  answer:  first  the  har- 
vesting had  to  be  done,  and  then  he  had  waited 
for  a  holiday. 

The  Melekhovs  began  reaping  on  a  Friday. 
Pantelei  stripped  the  wagon  and  prepared  the 

9—1933  129 


underframe  for  carrying  the  sheaves.  Pyotr  and 
Grigory  went  to  the  fields  to  reap.  Pyotr  rode 
and  Grigory  walked  alongside.  Grigory  was 
moody,  and  the  muscles  worked  between  his 
lower  jaw  and  his  cheek-bones.  Pyotr  knew  this 
to  be  a  sure  sign  that  his  brother  was  seething 
and  ready  for  a  quarrel,  but  smiling  under  his 
wheaten  moustache,  he  set  to  work  to  tease  Gri- 
gory. 

"God's  truth,  she  told  me  herself!" 

"Well,  what  if  she  did?"  Grigory  muttered, 
chewing  a  hair  of  his  moustache. 

"  'As  I'm  on  my  way  back  from  town,'  she 
says,  'I  hear  voices  in  the  Melekhovs'  sunflower 
patch.'  " 

"Pyotr,  stop  it!" 

"Yes,  voices.  'And  I  glance  through  the 
fence,  .  .  .'  " 

Grigory's  eyelids  quivered.  "Will  you  stop 
it,  or  won't  you?" 

"You're  a  queer  lad!  Let  me  finish!" 

"I  warn  you,  Pyotr,  we'll  be  fighting  each 
other  in  a  minute,"  Grigory  threatened,  falling 
behind. 

Pyotr  raised  his  eyebrows  and  turned  round 
in  his  seat  to  face  Grigory. 

" '.  .  .1  glance  through  the  fence,  and  there  I 
see  them,  the  two  lovers,  lying  in  each  other's 
arms!'  she  says.  'Who?'  I  asked,    and    she    an- 

130 


swers:   "Why,    Aksinya    and    your    brother.'   I 

say " 

Seizing  the  handle  of  a  pitchfork  lying  at  the 
back  of  the  reaper,  Grigory  flung  himself  at  his 
brother,  Pyotr  dropped  the  reins,  leapt  from 
his  seat,  and  dodged  in  front  of  the  horses. 

"Pah,  the  devil!"  he  exclaimed.  "He's  gone 
mad!  Pah!  Just  look  at  him.  .  . ." 

Baring  his  teeth  like  a  wolf,  Grigory  threw 
the  pitchfork  at  his  brother.  Pyotr  dropped  tc 
his  hands  and  knees,  and  flying  over  him  the 
pitchfork  buried  its  points  a  couple  of  inches 
into  the  earth  and  stuck  upright,  whanging  and 
quivering. 

Scowling,  Pyotr  caught  at  the  bridles  of  the 
startled  horses  and  swore  lustily:  "You  might 
have  killed  me,  you  swine!" 

"Yes,  and  I  would  have  killed  you!" 

"You're  a  fool,  a  mad  devil.  You're  your 
father's  son  all  right,  a  true  Turk." 

Grigory  pulled  the  pitchfork  out  of  the 
ground  and  followed  after  the  reaping  ma- 
chine. Pyotr  beckoned  to  him  with  his  finger. 

"Come  here!  Give  me  that  pitchfork." 

He  passed  the  reins  into  his  left  hand,  and 
took  the  pitchfork  by  the  prongs.  Then  with 
the  handle  he  struck  Grigory  across  the  back. 

"Ought  to  have  taken  a  better  swing,"  he 
grumbled,  keeping  his   eyes  on   Grigory,  who 

9*  131 


had  leaped  away.  After  a  moment  or  two  they 
lit  cigarettes,  stared  into  each  other's  eyes  and 
burst  out  laughing. 

Christonya's  wife,  who  was  driving  home 
along  another  road,  had  seen  Grigory  attack 
his  brother.  She  stood  up  in  her  wagon  but 
could  not  see  what  happened,  for  the  Mele- 
khovs'  reaping  machine  and  horses  were  be- 
tween her  and  the  brothers.  Hardly  had  she 
reached  the  village  street  when  she  cried  to 
a  neighbour: 

"Klimovna!  Run  and  tell  Prokofyevich  the 
Turk  that  his  boys  have  been  fighting  with 
pitchforks  close  to  the  Tatar  mound.  Grigory 
jabbed  Pyotr  in  the  side  with  the  fork,  and 
then  Pyotr  gave  him.  .  . .  The  blood  poured  out. 
It  was  horrible!" 

Pyotr  had  grown  hoarse  with  bawling  at  the 
tired  horses  and  was  whistling  instead,  Grigory, 
his  dust-blackened  foot  resting  on  the  transom, 
was  pitchforking  the  swathes  off  the  reaper. 
The  horses,  bitten  raw  by  the  flies,  swished 
their  tails  and  pulled  unwillingly.  Reaping  was 
in  progress  all  over  the  steppe.  The  blades  of 
the  machines  rattled  and  groaned,  the  steppe 
was  dotted  with  swathes  of  corn.  Mimicking  the 
drivers,  the  marmots  whistled  on  the  hillocks. 
"Two  more  lengths,  and  we'll  stop  for  a 
smoke!"  Pyotr  shouted  above  the  noise  of  the 

132 


machine.  Grigory  nodded.  He  could  hardly  open 
his  parched  lips.  He  gripped  his  pitchfork  clos- 
er to  the  prongs  in  order  to  get  a  better  lever- 
age on  the  heavy  swathes,  and  breathed  spas- 
modically. His  dripping  chest  itched  from 
sweat.  From  under  his  hat  it  poured  down  his 
face  and  stung  his  eyes  like  soap.  Halting  the 
horses,  they  had  a  drink  and  a  smoke. 

"There's  someone  riding  a  horse  pretty  hard 
along  the  road,"  Pyotr  remarked,  shading  his 
eyes  with  his  palm. 

Grigory  stared,  and  raised  his  eyebrows  in 
astonishment. 

"It  looks  like  Father." 

"You're  mad!  What  could  he  be  riding? 
We've  got  both  horses  here." 

"It's  him!  God's  truth,  it's  Father." 

The  rider  drew  nearer,  and  after  a  moment 
he  could  be  seen  clearly.  "Yes,  it's  Father!" 
Pyotr  stamped  about  in  anxious  surprise. 

"Something's  happened  at  home,"  Grigory 
gave  expression  to  the  thought  troubling  them 
both. 

When  still  a  hundred  yards  away,  Pantelei 
reined  his  horse  in.  "I'll  thrash  you,  you  sons 
of  a  bitch!"  he  yelled,  waving  his  leather  whip 
above  his  head. 

"What  on   earth...!"    Pyotr  was    completely 

133 


flabbergasted,    and  thrust    half    his  moustache 
into  his  mouth. 

"Get  on  the  other  side  of  the  reaper!  By 
God,  he'll  lash  us  with  that  knout.  While  we're 
getting  to  the  bottom  of  this  business,  he'll 
whip  our  guts  out,"  Grigory  said  with  a  grin, 
putting  the  machine  between  himself  and  his 
father. 

The  foaming  horse  came  over  the  swathes  of 
corn  at  a  lumbering  trot.  His  feet  knocking 
against  the  horse's  sides  (for  he  was  riding 
bareback),  Pantelei  shook  his  whip:  "What 
have  you  been  up  to  out  here,  you  children  of 
the  devil?" 

"We've  been  reaping,"  Pyotr  swept  his  arms 
around,  nervously  eyeing  the  whip. 

"Who's  been  sticking  who  with  the  fork? 
What  have  you  been  fighting  about?" 

Turning  his  back  on  his  father,  Grigory  be- 
gan counting  the  clouds  in  a  whisper. 

"What  fork?  Who's  been  fighting?"  Pyotr 
looked  his  father  up  and  down. 

"Why,  she  came  running  to  me,  the  daughter 
of  a  hen,  shrieking:  'Your  boys  have  stuck  each 
other  with  pitchforks.'  What  do  you  say  to 
that?"  Pantelei  shook  his  head  excitedly  and, 
dropping  the  reins,  jumped  off  his  horse.  "I 
grabbed  a  horse  and  came  out  at  a  gallop. 
Well?" 

134 


"Who  told  you  all  this?" 

"A  woman!" 

"She  was  lying.  Father.  She  must  have  been 
asleep  in  her  wagon  and  dreamed  it." 

"Women!"  Pantelei  half-shouted,  half-whis- 
tled, slobbering  down  his  beard.  "That  whore 
of  Klimov's!  My  God!  I'll  whip  the  bitch!"  he 
danced  with  rage. 

Shaking  with  silent  laughter,  Grigory  stared 
at  the  ground.  Pyotr,  keeping  his  eyes  fixed  on 
his  father,  stroked  his  perspiring  brow. 

Pantelei  danced  to  his  heart's  content,  and 
then  calmed  down.  He  took  the  seat  of  the  reap- 
ing machine  and  reaped  a  couple  of  lengths, 
then  mounted  his  horse  and  rode  back  to  the 
village,  leaving  his  whip  forgotten  on  the 
ground.  Pyotr  picked  it  up  and  swung  it  ap- 
praisingly  remarking  to  his  brother: 

"We'd  have  had  a  bad  time,  young  man. 
This  isn't  a  whip!  It  would  have  maimed  you. 
Brother,  It  could  cut  your  head  clean  off." 

XVIII 

The  Korshunovs  had  the  reputation  of  being 
the  richest  family  in  the  village  of  Tatarsky. 
They  had  fourteen  pairs  of  bullocks,  as  well  as 
horses,  mares  from  the  Provalsk  stud  farm, 
fifteen  cows,   innumerable  other  cattle,  and  a 

135 


flock  of  several  hundred  sheep.  Their  house 
with  its  six  rooms  and  iron  roof  was  as  good 
as  that  of  Mokhov  the  merchant.  The  outhouses 
were  roofed  with  new  and  handsome  tiles. 
The  garden  and  meadow  covered  a  good  three 
acres.  What  more  could  a  man  want? 

So  it  was  rather  timidly  and  with  secret  re- 
luctance that  Pantelei  had  paid  his  first  visit  to 
the  Korshunovs  to  propose  the  match.  The 
Korshunovs  could  find  a  much  richer  husband 
than  Grigory  for  their  daughter.  Pantelei  knew 
this  and  was  afraid  of  a  refusal.  He  did  not  like 
to  go  begging  to  Korshunov,  but  Ilyinichna 
gnawed  into  him  like  rust  into  iron,  and  at  last 
she  overcame  the  old  man's  obstinacy.  So 
finally  he  had  visited  the  Korshunovs,  heartily 
cursing  Grigory  and  Ilyinichna  and  the  whole 
wide  world.  Now  it  was  time  to  go  for  an  an- 
swer. They  were  only  waiting  for  Sunday. 

Meanwhile,  under  the  painted  iron  roof  of 
the  Korshunovs'  house  burning  dissension  had 
arisen.  After  the  Melekhovs'  departure  Natalya 
declared  to  her  mother: 

"I  like  Grigory,  I'll  never  wed  another." 

"She's  found  herself  a  bridegroom,  the  idiot," 
her  father  replied.  "The  only  good  thing  about 
him  is  that  he's  as  black  as  a  gypsy.  My  little 
berry,  I  could  find  you  a  much  better  husband." 

"1  don't  want  any   other.  Father."   The   girl 

136 


flushed  and  began  to  weep.  "You  can  take  me 
to  the  convent  otherwise." 

"He's  a  woman-chaser,  he  runs  after  sol- 
diers' wives.  The  whole  village  knows  it,"  her 
father  played  his  last  card. 

"Well,  and  let  him!" 

"Well,  if  it's  'let  him'  for  you,  then  it's  all 
the  same  to  me." 

Natalya,  the  eldest  daughter,  was  her  fa- 
ther's favourite,  and  he  had  not  pressed  her  into 
a  marriage.  Proposals  for  her  hand  had  been 
plentiful,  some  coming  from  distant  villages, 
from  rich,  old-believer  Cossacks.  But  Natalya 
had  not  taken  to  any  of  the  prospective  bride- 
grooms, and  nothing  had  come  of  their  efforts. 

In  his  heart,  Miron  liked  Grigory  for  his  Cos- 
sack ardour,  his  love  of  farming  and  hard  work. 
He  had  picked  him  out  among  the  crowd  of 
village  youths  when  Grigory  had  won  the  first 
prize  in  the  horse  races,  but  he  thought  it  a 
little  humiliating  to  give  his  daughter  to  a  man 
who  was  not  rich,  especially  one  who  had  a  bad 
reputation. 

"A  hard-working  lad  and  good-looking,"  his 
wife  would  whisper  to  him  at  night,  stroking 
his  freckled,  hairy  hand.  "And  Natalya  is  real- 
ly gone  on  him.  . .  ." 

Miron  turned  his  back  on  his  wife's  cold, 
withered  breast,  and  shouted  angrily: 

137 


"Get  off,  you  burr!  Marry  her  off  to  an  idiot, 
what  do  I  care?  God  has  taken  away  your  rea- 
son. Good-looking!"  he  mimicked.  "Will  you 
reap  a  harvest  off  his  face?" 

"Harvests  aren't  everything.  .  .  ." 

"What  does  it  matter  about  his  looks?  If  only 
he  had  some  standing.  I  must  admit  it's  a  bit 
of  a  come-down  for  me  to  give  my  daughter  to 
the  Turks." 

"They're  a  hard-working  family  and  comfort- 
ably off,"  his  wife  whispered,  and  moving 
closer  to  her  husband's  broad  back,  stroked  his 
hand  soothingly. 

"Hey,  the  devil!  Get  away,  can't  you?  Leave 
me  a  little  room!  Why  are  you  stroking  me  as 
if  I  were  a  cow  with  calf?  And  do  as  you  please 
with  Natalya.  Marry  her  to  a  close-cropped  girl 
if  that  suits  you." 

"You  should  have  some  feeling  for  your 
child,"  she  murmured  into  his  ear.  But  Miron 
kicked,  pressed  himself  against  the  wall 
and  began  to  snore  as  though  he  had  fallen 
asleep. 

The  Melekhovs'  arrival  for  an  answer  took 
the  Korshunovs  by  surprise.  They  came  just 
after  matins.  As  Ilyinichna  set  her  foot  on  the 
step  of  the  wagonette  she  nearly  overturned  it, 
but  Pantelei  jumped  down  from  the  seat  like 
a  young  cockerel. 

13S 


"There  they  are!  What  devil  brought  them 
here  today?"  Miron  groaned,  as  he  looked  out 
of  the  window. 

"Oh  dear,  here  I  am  just  out  of  the  kitchen. 
Haven't  even  had  a  chance  to  change  my  every- 
day skirt." 

"You'll  do  as  you  are.  Nobody's  thinking  of 
marrying  you,  who  wants  you,  you  horse 
mange!" 

"You're  a  born  ruffian  and  you've  completely 
lost  your  senses  in  your  old  age." 

"Hold  your  tongue,  woman!" 

"You  might  put  on  a  clean  shirt,  your  back- 
bone's showing  through  that  one.  Aren't  you 
ashamed,  you  old  devil?"  his  wife  scolded,  sur- 
veying her  husband  as  the  visitors  walked 
across  the  yard. 

"Don't  worry,  they'll  recognize  me  in  what 
I'm  wearing.  They  wouldn't  refuse  if  I  put  on 
sackcloth." 

"Good  health!"  Pantelei  crowed,  stumbling 
over  the  door-step.  He  was  at  once  abashed  by 
the  loudness  of  his  own  voice,  and  tried  to 
mend  matters  by  crossing  himself  twice  over 
before  the  icon. 

"Good-day,"  Miron  replied,  staring  at  them 
grimly. 

"God  is  giving  us  good  weather." 

"Praise  be,  and  it's  lasting." 

139 


"The  people  will  be  a  little  better  off  for  it." 

"That's  so." 

"Ye-e-es." 

"Ahem." 

"And  so  we've  come,  Miron  Grigoryevich, 
to  find  out  what  you  have  decided  among  your- 
selves-whether  we  are  to  make  a  match  of  it 
or  not." 

"Come  in,  please.  Sit  down,  please,"  the 
mistress  of  the  house  welcomed  them,  bowing 
and  sweeping  the  floor  with  the  edge  of  her 
long,  pleated  skirt. 

Ilyinichna  sat  down,  her  poplin  dress  rus- 
tling. Miron  Grigoryevich  rested  his  elbows  on 
the  new  oilcloth  on  the  table,  and  was  silent. 
An  unpleasant  smell  of  damp  rubber  and  some- 
thing else  came  from  the  oilcloth.  Its  corners 
were  adorned  with  pictures  of  the  last  tsar 
and  tsaritsa,  while  in  the  centre  were  the 
august  imperial  princesses  in  white  hats,  and 
the  fly-blown    Tsar  Nicholas  II. 

Miron  broke  the  silence. 

"Well .  .  .  we've  decided  to  give  our  daugh- 
ter. So  we  shall  be  kinsmen  if  we  can  agree  on 
the  dowry." 

At  this  point,  from  somewhere  in  the 
mysterious  depths  of  her  glossy,  puff-sleeved 
jacket,  as  if  from  behind  her  back,  Ilyinichna 
drew  out  a  great  loaf  of  white  bread  and  placed 

140 


it  on  the  table.  For  some  unknown  reason 
Pantelei  wanted  to  cross  himself,  but  his 
gnarled  claw-like  fingers,  though  set  to  the 
appropriate  sign  and  raised  half  the  requisite 
distance,  suddenly  changed  their  form.  Against 
its  master's  will  the  great  black  thumb  slipped 
unexpectedly  between  the  index  and  middle 
fingers,  and  this  shameless  bunch  of  fingers 
stealthily  slipped  behind  the  open  edge  of  his 
blue  overcoat  and  drev/  out  a  red-topped  bottle. 

Blinking  excitedly,  Pantelei  glanced  at 
Miron's  freckled  face  and  caressingly  slapped 
the  bottom  of  the  bottle  with  his  broad,  hoof- 
like palm. 

"And  now,  dear  friends,  we'll  offer  up  a 
prayer  to  God  and  drink  and  talk  of  our 
children  and  the  marriage  agreement,"  he  pro- 
posed. 

Within  an  hour  the  two  men  were  sitting  so 
close  together  that  the  tar-black  rings  of  Melek- 
hov's  beard  were  mingled  with  the  straight 
red  strands  of  Korshunov's.  Pantelei's  breath 
smelt  of  pickled  cucumbers  as  he  argued 
over  the  amount  of  the  marriage  settlement. 

"My  dear  kinsman,"  he  began  in  a  hoarse 
whisper.  "My  dearest  kinsman,"  he  repeated, 
raising  his  voice  to  a  shout.  "Kinsman,"  he 
roared,  baring  his  great,  blunt  teeth.  "Your 
demands  are  far  too   heavy  for  me  to  stand. 

Ml 


Think,  dear  kinsman,  think  how  you  are  trying 
to  rob  me.  Gaiters  and  goloshes,  one;  a  fur 
coat,  two;  two  woollen  dresses,  three;  a  silk 
kerchief,  four.  Why,  it's  ruination!" 

Pantelei  stretched  his  arms  wide  till  the 
seams  of  his  tunic  split.  Miron  lowered  his 
head  and  stared  at  the  oilcloth,  flooded  with 
spilt  vodka  and  pickle.  He  read  the  inscription 
on  the  flowery  scroll  at  the  top.  "The  Russian 
Royal  Family."  He  brought  his  eyes  lower. 
"His  Imperial  Majesty  and  Sire,  Emperor 
Nicholas. ..."  A  potato-skin  lay  over  the  rest. 
He  stared  at  the  picture.  The  emperor's  features 
were  invisible  under  an  empty  vodka  bottle. 
Blinking  reverently,  Miron  attempted  to  make 
out  the  style  of  the  rich  uniform  with  its  white 
belt,  but  it  was  thickly  covered  with  slippery 
cucumber  seeds.  The  empress  in  a  broad- 
brimmed  hat  stared  up  at  him  complacently, 
surrounded  by  the  circle  of  insipid  daughters. 
Miron  felt  so  affronted  that  tears  almost  came 
to  his  eyes.  "You  look  very  proud  now,  like  a 
goose  staring  out  of  a  basket,  but  wait  till  you 
have  to  give  your  daughters  away  to  be 
married,  then  I  shall  stare,  and  you'll  flutter," 
he  thought. 

Pantelei  droned  on  into  his  ear  like  a  great 
black  bumble-bee.  Korshunov  raised  his  tear- 
fully misty  eyes,  and  listened. 

142 


"In  order  to  make  such  a  gift  in  exchange 
for  your,  and  now  we  can  say  our,  daughter- 
these  gaiters  and  goloshes  and  fur  coats-we 
shall  have  to  drive  a  cow  to  the  market  and  sell 
it." 

"And  do  you  begrudge  it?"  Miron  struck 
the  table  with  his  fist. 

"It  isn't  that  I  begrudge  it. .  .  ." 

"Do  you  begrudge  it?" 

"Wait,  kinsman!" 

"And  if  you  do  begrudge  it  .  .  .  the  devil 
take  you!"  Miron  swept  his  perspiring  hand 
over  the  table  and  sent  the  glasses  to  the  floor. 

"It  will  be  your  daughter  who'll  work  for  it." 

"Let  her!  But  you  must  give  the  proper 
presents,  otherwise  there'll  be  no  marriage!" 

"A  cow  sold  from  the  yard!"  Pantelei  shook 
his  head. 

"There  has  to  be  a  gift.  She's  got  plenty  of 
clothes  of  her  own,  it's  me  you've  got  to  show 
respect  for  if  you've  taken  a  fancy  to  her.  That's 
our  Cossack  custom.  That's  how  it  was  of  old, 
and  we  stick  to  the  old  ways." 

"I  will  show  my  respect!" 

"Show  your  respect!" 

"I  will  show  it!" 

"And  let  the  youngsters  work.  We've  worked, 
and  we  live  as  well  as  anybody.  Let  them  do 
the  same!" 

143 


The  two  men's  beards  wove  together  colour- 
fully.  They  kissed  and  Pantelei  began  to  eat  a 
juiceless,  shrivelled  cucumber  and  wept  with 
mixed,  conflicting  feelings. 

The  women  were  sitting  locked  in  an  embrace 
on  the  chest,  deafening  each  other  with  the 
cackle  of  their  voices.  Ilyinichna  glowed  with  a 
cherry-coloured  flush,  Marya  had  turned  green 
from  the  vodka,  like  a  winter  pear  nipped  by 
the  frost. 

"You  won't  find  a  child  like  her  anywhere 
else  in  the  world.  She'll  be  dutiful  and  obedient, 
and  will  never  say  a  word  to  contradict  you," 
said  Marya. 

"My  dear,"  Ilyinichna  interrupted  her,  sup- 
porting her  cheek  with  her  left  hand  and  hold- 
ing her  left  elbow  in  her  right  hand,  "so  I've 
told  him,  I  don't  know  how  many  times,  the 
son  of  a  bitch.  He  was  getting  ready  to  go  out 
the  other  Sunday  evening,  putting  some 
tobacco  in  his  pouch,  and  I  said  to  him,  'When 
will  you  throw  her  over,  you  accursed  heathen? 
How  long  have  I  got  to  go  on  standing  this 
shame  in  my  old  age?  That  Stepan  will  stop 
your  little  game  one  fine  day!'  " 

Mitka  stared  into  the  room  through  the 
door  crack,  and  below  him  Natalya's  two 
younger  sisters  whispered  to  each  other. 
Natalya  herself  was  sitting  in  the  farther  room, 

144 


wiping  her  tears  on  the  tight  sleeve  of  her 
blouse.  She  was  afraid  of  the  new  life  opening 
before  her,  oppressed  by  the  unknown. 

In  the  front  room  the  third  bottle  of  vodka 
was  finished;  it  was  decided  to  bring  the  bride 
and  bridegroom  together  on  the  first  of  August. 

XIX 

The  Korshunovs'  house  hummed  like  a  bee- 
hive with  the  bustle  of  preparations  for  the 
wedding.  Underclothes  were  hurriedly  sewn 
for  the  bride.  Natalya  sat  every  evening  knit- 
ting her  bridegroom  the  traditional  gloves  and 
scarf  of  goat's  wool.  Her  mother  sat  till  dusk 
bent  over  a  sev/ing-machine,  helping  the  hired 
seamstress.  When  Mitka  returned  with  his 
father  and  the  farm-hands  from  the  fields  he 
did  not  stop  to  wash  or  pull  off  his  heavy  farm- 
ing boots,  but  went  to  keep  Natalya  compa- 
ny. He  found  great  satisfaction  in  teasing  his 
sister. 

"Knitting?"  he  would  ask  briefly,  nodding 
at  the  scarf. 

"Yes,  what  of  it?" 

"Knit  away,  you  idiot.  Instead  of  being 
grateful  to  you,  he'll  break  your  jaw." 

"What  for?" 

10—1933  tdfi 


"Oh,  I  know  Grisha,  he's  a  friend  of  mine. 
He's  that  sort,  he'll  bite  and  not  say  what  it's 
for." 

"Don't  tell  lies.  You  think  I  don't  know 
him." 

"But  I  know  him  better.  We  went  to  school 
together."  Mitka  would  simulate  a  deep  sigh, 
look  at  his  scratched  hands  and  bend  his  long 
back. 

"You'll  be  lost,  Natalya,  if  you  marry  him. 
Better  stay  an  old  maid.  What  do  you  see  in 
him  anyhow?  He's  ugly  enough  to  scare  a 
horse.  Stupid  too.  Just  look  at  him  a  bit  closer: 
he's  a  lousy  fellow." 

Natalya  would  grow  angry,  choke  back  her 
tears,  and  bend  a  miserable  face  over  the  scarf. 

"But  worst  of  all  he's  in  love,"  Mitka  went 
on  mercilessly.  "What  are  you  grizzling  for? 
You're  a  fool,  Natalya!  Throw  him  over!  I'll 
saddle  the  horse  and  ride  over  and  tell 
them.  .  .  ." 

Natalya  was  rescued  from  Mitka  by  Grand- 
father Grishaka,  who  would  come  into  the 
room,  groping  over  the  floor  with  his  knobbly 
stick  and  stroking  his  hempen-yellow  beard. 
Poking  his  stick  into  Mitka's  side,  he  would 
ask: 

"What  are  you  doing  here,  you  good-for- 
nothing,  huh?" 

146 


"I  came  to  pay  a  visit.  Grandad/'  Mitka 
would  reply  apologetically. 

"To  pay  a  visit?  Well,  I  tell  you  to  get  out  of 
here.  Quick  march!"  The  old  man  would  lift 
his  stick  and  approach  Mitka  on  his  shaky 
withered  legs. 

Grandad  Grishaka  had  walked  the  earth 
for  sixty-nine  years.  He  had  taken  part  in  the 
Turkish  campaign  of  1877,  had  been  orderly 
to  General  Gurko,  but  had  fallen  into  dis- 
favour and  been  sent  back  to  his  regiment.  He 
had  been  awarded  two  crosses  and  the  medal 
of  St.  George  for  distinction  under  fire  at 
Plevna  and  Rossitz.  And  now,  living  with  his 
son,  enjoying  the  universal  respect  of  the  vil- 
lage for  his  lucidity  of  mind,  his  incorrupti- 
ble honesty  and  his  hospitable  ways,  he  was 
spending  his  few  remaining  years  in  remi- 
niscences. 

In  the  summer  he  sat  from  dawn  till  dusk 
on  the  earthen  bank  round  the  house,  his  head 
bowed,  drawing  his  stick  over  the  ground, 
while  vague  images  and  scraps  of  thought 
floated  through  his  mind,  dull  gleams  of 
memory  amid  the  shadows  of  forgetfulness. 
The  broken  peak  of  his  cap  threw  a  dark  shade 
over  his  closed  eyes.  The  black  blood  flowed 
sluggishly  through  the  fingers  curved  over  his 
stick,  through  the  swollen  veins  on  his  hands. 

10*  147 


His  blood  seemed  to  grow  colder  every  year. 
He  would  complain  to  Natalya,  his  favourite 
grand-daughter: 

"These  socks  are  woollen,  but  they're  not 
warm  enough.  You'd  better  crochet  a  pair  for 
me,  child." 

"But  it's  summer.  Grandad!"  Natalya  would 
laugh,  and,  seating  herself  on  the  bank  by  his 
side,  would  look  at  his  big  wrinkled  yellow 
ear. 

"What  of  it,  child?  It's  summer,  but  my 
blood  is  as  cold  as  the  earth  deep  below." 

Natalya  looked  at  the  network  of  veins  on 
his  hand  and  her  mind  flashed  back  to  a  day 
in  her  childhood.  A  well  was  being  sunk  in  their 
yard,  and  she-still  only  a  little  girl-was  taking 
clay  out  of  the  bucket  and  making  heavy  dolls, 
and  cows  with  crumbling  horns.  She  vividly 
recalled  the  feel  of  the  lifeless  icy  earth,  lifted 
up  from  a  depth  of  thirty-five  feet.  And  now, 
frightened,  she  stared  at  her  grandfather's 
hands,  covered  with  the  brown  clay-coloured 
freckles  of  old  age.  It  seemed  to  her  that  dark, 
clayey  earth  was  flowing  in  his  veins  instead 
of  bright  scarlet  blood. 

"Are  you  afraid  to  die.  Grandad?"  Natalya 
would  ask. 

The  old  man  twisted  his  withered  neck  as 
though  working  it  free  of  the  stiff  collar  of  his 

148 


uniform  coat,  and  shook  his  greenish-grey 
whiskers. 

"I  wait  for  death  as  I  would  for  a  dear  guest. 
It's  time-I've  lived  my  days,  I've  served  my 
tsars,  and  drunk  vodka  enough  in  my  day,"  he 
replied  showing  his  white  teeth  in  a  smile,  his 
withered  lids  quivering. 

Natalya  would  stroke  her  grandfather's 
hand  and  leave  him,  still  bowed,  sitting 
hunched  on  the  bank  in  his  patched  grey  uni- 
form, scraping  the  earth  with  his  stick,  while 
the  bright  red  tabs  twinkled  gaily  and  youth- 
fully in  his  stiff  upright  collar. 

He  took  the  news  of  Natalya's  approaching 
marriage  with  outward  calm,  but  inwardly  he 
grieved  and  was  furious.  At  table  Natalya 
always  gave  him  the  choicest  pieces;  she 
washed  his  linen,  mended  and  knitted  his 
stockings,  his  sharouari  and  shirts.  And  so, 
when  the  old  man  heard  the  news  he  gave  her 
harsh,  stern  looks  for  a  couple  of  days. 

"The  Melekhovs  are  good  Cossacks.  The 
late  Prokofy,  a  fine  Cossack  he  was.  But  what 
are  his  grandsons  like?  Huh?"  he  asked  Miron. 

"They're  not  so  bad,"  Miron  replied  evasively. 

"That  Grigory's  a  disrespectful  lad.  I  was 
coming  from  church  the  other  day  and  he 
passed  me  without  a  word  of  greeting.  The  old 
men  don't  get  much  respect  these  days.  ,  . ." 

149 


"He's  a  nice  lad,"  Lukinichna  put  in  a  word 
for  her  future  son-in-law. 

"Nice,  you  say?  Oh  well,  so  long  as  Nata- 
lya  likes  him.  .  .  ." 

He  took  almost  no  part  in  the  negotiations; 
he  came  out  of  the  kitchen  and  sat  down  at 
the  table  for  a  moment  or  two,  drank  a  glass 
of  vodka,  and  then,  feeling  himself  getting 
drunk,  went  off  again.  For  two  days  he  silently 
watched  the  happy  Natalya,  then  seemed  to 
soften  in  his  attitude. 

"Natalya!"  he  called  to  her.  "Well,  my  little 
grand-daughter,  so  you're  very  happy,  huh?" 

"I  don't  rightly  know  myself.  Grandad," 
Natalya  confided. 

"Well,  well!  Christ  be  with  you.  God 
grant. . .  ."  And  then  he  bitterly  upbraided  her. 
"Couldn't  you  have  waited  till  I  was  dead,  you 
little  brat  .  .  .  my  life  will  be  bitter  without 
you." 

Mitka  was  listening  to  their  talk,  and  he 
remarked : 

"You're  likely  to  live  another  hundred  years. 
Grandfather.  Is  she  to  wait  all  that  time?  You're 
a  fine  one!" 

The  old  man  turned  almost  purple  with 
anger.  He  rapped  on  the  ground  with  his  stick 
and  feet: 

150 


"Clear  off,  you  son  of  a  bitch!  Clear  off,  I  say! 
You  devil's  demon!  Who  told  you  to  listen?" 

Mitka  ran  out  into   the  yard  laughing. 

Old  Grishaka  raged  for  a  long  time  after, 
cursing  Mitka;  his  legs  in  their  short  woollen 
stockings  trembled  at  the  knees. 

Natalya's  two  little  sisters-Marisha,  a  girl 
of  twelve,  and  Grippa,  an  eight-year-old  imp- 
waited  impatiently  for  the  wedding. 

The  farm-hands  employed  by  Korshunov 
were  also  quite  pleased.  They  expected  a  lavish 
treat  from  their  master  and  several  days  off. 

One  of  them-tall  as  a  crane-a  Ukrainian 
with  the  outlandish  name  of  Het-Baba-went  on 
a  drinking  spree  about  once  every  six  months. 
He  would  drink  away  all  his  clothes  as  well  as 
his  wages.  Although  he  had  felt  the  familiar 
urge  for  a  long  time  already,  he  had  forced 
himself  to  delay  the  start  of  the  drinking  bout 
until   the  wedding. 

The  second  farm-hand-a  thin  swarthy  Cos- 
sack, named  Mikhei,  had  been  with  the  Kor- 
shunovs  only  a  short  time.  Ruined  by  a  fire,  he 
had  become  a  labourer.  Having  struck  up  a 
friendship  with  Het-Baba  he  gradually  took 
to  drink.  He  was  a  great  lover  of  horses.  When 
he  was  drunk  he  would  weep,  his  angular, 
browless  face  smeared  with  tears,  and  pester 
Miron  Grigoryevich: 

I5t 


"Master!  Dear  master!  When  you  give  your 
daughter  away  let  me  drive  her  horses.  I'll 
show  them  some  driving!  I'll  drive  her  through 
fire,  and  not  a  single  hair  on  the  horses  will  be 
burned.  I  myself  once  had  horses.  Oh.  .  .  ." 

The  grim,  unsociable  Het-Baba  for  some 
reason  or  other  became  attached  to  Mikhei 
and  constantly  tormented  him  with  the  same 
old  joke  about  the  name  of  his  native  village. 
He  would  always  laugh  hoarsely  at  his  own 
stale  joke  and  slap  his  long,  dry  shanks. 
Mikhei  would  look  disgustedly  at  Het-Baba's 
clean-shaven  face  and  quivering  Adam's  apple, 
and  curse  him. 

The  wedding  was  to  take  place  on  the  first 
day  after  Lent.  Three  weeks  remained.  On  the 
Day  of  the  Assumption  Grigory  came  to  visit 
his  future  bride.  He  sat  at  the  round  table  in 
the  best  room,  eating  sunflower  seeds  and  nuts 
with  the  bride's  girl-friends,  then  drove  away 
again.  Natalya  saw  him  off.  In  the  lean-to  shed, 
where  his  horse  was  standing  saddled  with  a 
smart  new  saddle,  she  slipped  her  hand  into 
her  breast,  and  blushing,  gazing  at  him  with 
eyes  that  expressed  her  love,  she  thrust  a  soft 
little  bundle,  warm  from  her  breast,  into  his 
hand.  As  he  took  the  gift  Grigory  dazzled  her 
with  the  whiteness  of  his  wolfish  teeth,  and 
asked: 

i52 


"What  is  it?" 

"You'll  see.  .  .  .  I've  embroidered  you  a 
tobacco  pouch." 

Grigory  irresolutely  drew  her  towards  him, 
wanting  to  kiss  her;  but  she  held  him  off  for- 
cibly with  her  hands  against  his  chest,  leaned 
away  from  him,  and  turned  her  eyes  apprehen- 
sively towards  the  window  of  the  house. 

"They'll  see  us!" 

"Let  them!" 

"I'm  ashamed  to!" 

"That's  only  at  first,"  Grigory  explained. 

Natalya  held  the  reins  while  he  mounted. 
Frowning,  Grigory  caught  the  stirrup  with  his 
foot,  seated  himself  comfortably  in  the  saddle 
and  rode  out  of  the  yard.  She  opened  the  gate, 
and  stood  gazing  after  him.  Grigory  leaned 
over  to  the  left  in  his  saddle,  Kalmyk  fashion, 
waving  his  whip  with  a  flourish. 

"Eleven  more  days,"  Natalya  thought  to 
herself  and  sighed  and  smiled. 

XX 

The  green,  sharp-leafed  wheat  breaks  through 
the  ground  and  grows;  within  a  few  weeks  a 
rook  can  fly  into  its  midst  and  not  be  seen.  The 
com  sucks  the  juices  from  the  earth  and  comes 
to  ear,  then  it  flowers  and  the  ears  are  pow- 

153 


dered  with  a  golden  dust;  the  grain  swells  with 
sweet  and  scented  milk.  The  farmer  goes  out 
into  the  steppe  and  stands  gazing  and  is  filled 
with  joy.  But  then  a  herd  of  cattle  stray  into 
the  corn;  they  tread  the  laden  grain  into  the 
glebe.  Round  patches  of  crushed  wheat  are  left 
where  the  cattle  have  lain;  the  farmer  grows 
bitter  and  desperate  at  the  sight. 

So  with  Aksinya.  Grigory  had  trampled  her 
feelings  that  had  ripened  to  golden  flower  with 
his  heavy,  raw-hide  sandals.  He  had  sullied 
them,  burned  them  to  ash-and  that  was  all. 

As  she  came  back  from  the  Melekhovs' 
sunflower  patch  Aksinya's  spirit  grew  empty 
and  wild,  like  a  deserted  farmyard  overgrown 
with  goose-grass  and  scrub.  She  walked  along 
chewing  the  ends  of  her  kerchief,  and  a  cry 
swelled  her  throat.  She  entered  the  house  and 
fell  to  the  floor,  choking  with  tears,  with  tor- 
ment, with  the  dreary  emptiness  that  lashed 
through  her  head.  But  then  it  passed.  The  pierc- 
ing anguish  was  drawn  down  and  exhausted  at 
the  bottom  of  her  heart. 

The  grain  trampled  by  the  cattle  stands 
again.  With  the  dew  and  the  sun  the  trodden 
stalks  arise;  at  first,  bowed  like  a  man  under 
a  too  heavy  burden,  then  erect,  lifting  their 
heads;  and  the  day  is  day  again  and  the  wind 
still  blows. 

154 


At  night,  as  she  passionately  caressed  her 
husband,  Aksinya  thought  of  another,  and 
hatred  was  mingled  with  a  great  love  in  her 
heart.  The  woman  was  planning  fresh 
dishonour,  fresh  shame;  she  had  made  up 
her  mind  to  take  Grigory  from  the  happy 
Natalya,  who  had  known  neither  the  bitterness 
nor  the  joy  of  love.  She  lay  thinking  over  her 
plans  at  night,  her  dry  eyes  blinking  in  the 
darkness.  Stepan's  handsome  head  lay  heavily 
on  her  right  arm,  his  long  wavy  forelock  awry. 
He  breathed  through  his  half-opened  lips,  his 
black,  toil-roughened  fingers  caressing  his 
wife's  breast  in  forgetfulness.  Aksinya  lay 
thinking  and  planning,  but  only  one  thing  could 
she  resolve  firmly:  she  would  take  Grigory  from 
everybody  else,  she  would  flood  him  with  love, 
she  would  possess  him  as  before  she  had 
possessed  him.  But  at  the  bottom  of  her  heart 
a  deep  pain,  like  the  sting  left  by  a  bee,  re- 
mained. 

During  the  day  Aksinya  drowned  her 
thoughts  in  household  duties  and  cares.  She 
met  Grigory  occasionally,  and  would  turn  pale, 
proudly  carrying  her  beautiful  body  that 
yearned  so  much  for  him,  gazing  shamelessly, 
challengingly  into  the  black  wilderness  of  his 
eyes. 

155 


After  each  meeting  Grigory  was  seized  with 
yearning  for  her.  He  grew  angry  without  cause, 
and  poured  out  his  wrath  on  Dunya  and  his 
mother,  but  most  frequently  he  took  his  sabre, 
went  out  into  the  backyard  and  slashed  away 
at  stout  twigs  planted  in  the  ground  until  he 
was  bathed  in  perspiration.  It  made  Pantelei 
curse : 

"The  lousy  devil,  he's  chopped  up  enough 
for  a  couple  of  fences.  Go  into  the  woods,  if 
you  must  chop  away.  You  wait,  my  lad!  When 
you're  called  up  for  service,  you'll  have  the 
chance  to  do  it.  That'll  soon  take  it  out  of  you!" 

XXI 

Four  gaily-decorated  two-horse  wagonettes 
were  to  drive  to  fetch  the  bride.  A  crowd 
of  village  folk  in  holiday  attire  thronged 
around  them  as  they  stood  in  the  Melekhovs' 
yard. 

Pyotr  was  the  best  man.  He  was  dressed  in 
a  black  frock-coat  and  blue  striped  trousers, 
his  left  arm  was  bound  with  two  white  ker- 
chiefs, and  he  wore  a  fixed  scornful  smile  under 
his  wheaten  whiskers. 

"Don't  be  shy,  Grigory!"  he  said  to  his 
brother.  "Hold  your  head  up  like  a  young 
cock,  don't  get  sulky!" 

156 


Darya,  as  slender  and  supple  as  a  willow 
branch,  attired  in  a  woollen,  raspberry-coloured 
skirt,  twitched  the  pencilled  arches  of  her 
brows  and  gave  Pyotr  a  nudge: 

"Tell  Father  it's  time  we  were  off.  They're 
waiting  for  us." 

"Take  your  places,"  Pyotr  ordered,  after  a 
whispered  consultation  with  his  father.  "On 
my  wagon,  five  and  the  bridegroom."  They 
climbed  into  the  wagonettes.  Flushed  and 
triumphant,  Ilyinichna  opened  the  gates.  The 
four  wagonettes  chased  after  one  another  along 
the  street. 

Pyotr  sat  at  Grigory's  side.  Opposite  them 
Darya  waved  a  lace  handkerchief.  The  ruts 
and  bumps  interi*upted  the  voices  that  had 
struck  up  a  song.  The  crimson  bands  of  the 
Cossack  caps,  the  blue  and  black  uniforms 
and  frock-coats,  the  sleeves  bound  with  white 
kerchiefs,  the  scattered  rainbow  of  the  women's 
kerchiefs,  the  gay  skirts,  and  muslin  trains  of 
dust  behind  each  wagonette  made  a  colourful 
picture. 

Grigory's  second  cousin,  Anikei,  drove  the 
bridegroom's  wagonette.  Leaning  forward  over 
the  tails  of  the  horses,  almost  falling  off  his 
seat,  he  cracked  his  whip  and  whistled,  and 
the  perspiring  horses  pulled  harder  at  the 
tautened  traces. 

757 


"Give  it  to  'em/'  roared  Pyotr. 

The  moustacheless  hawk-like  Anikei  winked 
at  Grigory,  wrinkled  his  hairless  womanish 
face  into  a  thin  smile,  gave  a  whistle  and 
belaboured  the  horses  with  his  whip. 

"Make  way!"  Ilya  Ozhogin,  the  bride- 
groom's uncle  on  his  mother's  side,  roared  as 
he  tried  to  overtake  them  with  the  second 
wagonette.  Grigory  recognized  Dunya's  sun- 
burnt face  behind  his  uncle's  back. 

"No,  you  don't!"  Anikei  shouted,  jumping 
to  his  feet  and  emitting  a  piercing  whistle.  He 
whipped  up  the  horses  into  a  frenzied  gallop. 
"You'll  fall!"  Darya  exclaimed,  encircling 
Anikei's  patent  leather  top-boots  with  her  arms. 
"Hold  on!"  Uncle  Ilya  called  at  their  side,  but 
his  voice  was  lost  in  the  continual  groan  and 
rattle  of  the  wheels. 

The  two  other  wagonettes,  tightly  packed 
with  whooping  men  and  women,  drove  along 
side  by  side.  The  horses  with  red,  blue,  and 
pink  cloths  on  their  backs,  paper  flowers  and 
ribbons  woven  into  their  manes  and  forelocks, 
and  bells  on  their  harness,  tore  over  the  bumpy 
road,  scattering  flakes  of  soapy  foam,  and  the 
cloths  on  their  wet,  lathered  backs  flapped  and 
billowed  in  the  wind. 

At  the  Korshunovs'  gate  a  horde  of  village 
lads  was  on    the  look-out    for    the    cavalcade. 


158 


They  saw  the  dust  rising  from  the  road  and 
ran  into  the  yard  bawling: 

"They're  coming!"  "Here  they  are!"  They 
surrounded  Het-Baba  who  had  just  come  out. 

"Why  the  crowd?  Get  away,  you  little  devils. 
What  a  noise  you  make!  I  can't  hear  myself 
speak." 

The  children  jumped  around  Het-Baba's 
wide  baggy  sharouari,  shouting  and  poking 
fun  at  the  Ukrainian.  Het-Baba,  his  head  bent 
as  if  he  were  peeping  into  a  deep  well,  looked 
down  at  the  frenzied  children  and  scratched 
his  firm  long  belly  with  an  indulgent  smile. 

The  wagonettes  came  rattling  up  to  the  gate. 
Pyotr  led  Grigory  to  the  steps,  the  others 
followed  behind. 

The  door  from  the  porch  to  the  kitchen  was 
shut  fast.  Pyotr  knocked. 

"Lord  Jesus  Christ,  have  mercy  on  us!"  he 
intoned. 

"Amen!"  came  from  the  other  side  of  the 
door. 

Pyotr  repeated  the  words  and  the  knock 
three  times,  each  time  receiving  the  same 
answer. 

"May  we  come  in?" 

"You  are  welcome." 

The  door  was  thrown  open.  The  parents'  re- 
presentative,     Natalya's    godmother,    a    good- 

159 


looking  widow,  greeted  Pyotr  with  a  curtsey 
and  a  thin  raspberry-lipped  smile.  "Take  this 
for  your  health's  sake,  best  man!"  she  said, 
handing  him  a  glass  of  cloudy,  over-fresh 
kvass.  Pyotr  smoothed  his  whiskers,  drank  it 
down,  and  spluttered  amid  a  general  restrained 
laugh:  "Well,  you've  made  me  welcome!  You 
wait,  my  blackberry,  wait  till  I  treat  you.  I'll 
make  you  pay  for  it." 

While  the  best  man  and  Natalya's  godmother 
were  competing  in  a  duel  of  wits,  the  relatives 
of  the  bridegroom  were  brought  three  glasses 
of  vodka  each,  in  accordance  with  the  marriage 
agreement. 

Natalya,  already  attired  in  her  wedding 
dress  and  veil,  sat  at  the  table,  guarded  by  her 
two  sisters.  Marishka  held  a  rolling  pin  in  her 
outstretched  hand,  and  Grippa,  a  challenging 
fervour  in  her  eyes,  brandished  a  mixing  spoon. 
Sweating,  and  slightly  tipsy  with  vodka,  Pyotr 
bowed  and  offered  them  a  fifty-kopeck  piece  in 
his  glass.  But  Marishka  struck  the  table  with 
her  rolling  pin, 

"Not  enough!  We  shan't  sell  the  bride!" 

Once  more  Pyotr  offered  them  some  small 
silver  in  the  glass: 

"We  won't  let  you  have  her!"  the  sisters 
raged,  elbowing  the  downcast  Natalya. 

160 


"Here,  what's  all  this?  We've  already  paid 
and  overpaid." 

"Give  way,  girls!"  Miron  ordered,  and 
smilingly  pressed  towards  the  table.  His  ruddy 
hair,  smeared  with  melted  butter,  smelt  of 
sweat  and  dung.  At  this  signal  the  bride's  rel- 
atives and  friends  seated  round  the  table 
stood  up  and  made  room  for  the  newcomers. 

Pyotr  thrust  the  end  of  a  handkerchief  into 
Grigory's  hand,  jumped  on  to  a  bench,  and 
led  him  to  the  bride,  who  had  seated  herself 
under  the  icons.  Natalya  took  the  other  end  of 
the  handkerchief  in  her  moist  and  agitated  hand. 

There  was  a  champing  of  teeth  around  the 
table.  The  guests  tore  the  boiled  chicken  apart 
with  their  hands,  afterwards  wiping  them  on 
their  hair.  As  Anikei  chewed  at  a  breast  bone 
the  yellow  fat  ran  down  his  bare  chin  on  to 
his  collar. 

Feeling  sorry  for  himself,  Grigory  stared 
first  at  his  own  and  Natalya's  spoons  tied 
together  in  the  handkerchief,  then  at  the  noo- 
dles steaming  in  a  bowl.  He  badly  wanted  to 
eat;  his  stomach  was  rolling  over  with  hunger. 

Dar^'^a  was  helping  herself.  Uncle  Ilya  who 
sat  next  to  her,  nibbling  at  a  rib  of  mutton 
with  his  large  teeth,  was  evidently  whispering 
improprieties  to  her,  for  she  screwed  up  her 
eyes  and  lifted  her  brows,  blushing  and  giggling. 

11—1933  161 


The  guests  ate  long  and  heartily.  The  reek 
of  resinous  masculine  sweat  mingled  with  the 
more  caustic  and  spicy  scent  of  the  women.  The 
skirts,  frock-coats  and  shawls  that  had  for  long 
been  packed  away  in  chests,  smelled  of  moth- 
balls and  something  else,  heavy  and  cloying, 
like  an  old  woman's  much-used  honey  pot. 

Grigory  glanced  sidelong  at  Natalya.  And 
for  the  first  time  he  noticed  that  her  upper  lip 
was  swollen,  and  hung  like  the  peak  of  a  cap 
over  her  underlip.  He  also  noticed  that  on  the 
right  cheek,  below  the  cheek-bone,  was  a 
brown  mole,  and  that  two  golden  hairs  were 
growing  out  of  the  mole;  and  for  some  reason 
this  irritated  him.  He  recalled  Aksinya's  slender 
neck  with  its  curly,  fluffy  locks,  and  he  had 
the  feeling  that  someone  had  dropped  a 
handful  of  prickly  hay  down  his  sweating  back. 
He  bristled,  and  with  a  suppressed  feeling  of 
wretchedness  watched  the  others  munching, 
chewing  and  smacking  their  lips. 

When  they  got  up  from  the  table  someone, 
breathing  stewed  fruit-juice  and  the  sour 
scent  of  wheaten  bread  over  him,  poured  a 
handful  of  millet  down  the  leg  of  his  boot  in 
order  to  protect  him  against  the  evil  eye.  All 
the  way  back  to  his  own  house  the  millet  hurt 
his    feet;    the    tight    collar    band    of    his    shirt 

162 


choked  him,  and  under  the  depressing  influence 
of  the  marriage  rites,  in  a  cold,  desperate  fury 
Grigory  muttered  curses  to  himself. 

XXII 

By  the  time  they  reached  the  Melekhovs' 
yard,  the  horses,  though  they  had  rested  a  bit 
at  the  Korshunovs,  were  exhausted.  Their 
harnesses  were  spattered  with  foam.  But  the 
drunken  drivers  urged  them  on  ruthlessly. 

The  procession  was  met  by  the  old  Mele- 
khovs. Pantelei,  his  silver-inlaid  black  beard 
glistening,  held  the  icon,  and  his  wife  stood 
at  his  side,  her  thin  lips  set  stonily. 

Amid  a  shower  of  hops  and  wheat  grain 
Grigory  and  Natalya  approached  them  to 
receive  their  blessing.  As  he  blessed  them  a 
tear  ran  down  Pantelei's  face,  and  he  frowned 
and  fidgeted,  annoyed  that  anyone  should  be 
witness  of  his  frailty. 

The  bride  and  bridegroom  went  into  the 
house.  Darya,  red  from  the  vodka,  the  ride,  and 
the  sun,  dashed  out  on  to  the  steps  and  pounced 
on  Dunya. 

"Where's  Pyotr?" 

"I  haven't  seen  him!" 

"He  ought  to  go  for  the  priest,  and  he's 
nowhere  to  be  found,  curse  him!" 

11*  163 


She  found  Pyotr,  who  had  drunk  more  vodka 
than  was  good  for  him,  lying  in  a  cart,  groan- 
ing. She  swooped  on  him  like  a  kite.  "You've 
had  too  much,  you  heathen!  Get  up  and  run  for 
the  priest!" 

"Clear  off!  I  don't  know  you.  Who  are  you 
ordering  about?"  Pyotr  protested,  scrabbling 
about  in  the  straw  and  fowls'  dung. 

With  tears  in  her  eyes  Darya  thrust  two 
fingers  into  his  mouth,  gripped  his  lolling 
tongue,  and  helped  him  to  ease  himself.  Then 
she  poured  a  pitcher  of  cold  well-water  over 
his  head,  wiped  him  dry  with  the  horse  blanket 
and  took  him  to  the  priest. 

Less  than  an  hour  later  Grigory  was  stand- 
ing at  Natalya's  side  in  the  church,  clutching 
a  wax  candle  in  his  hand,  his  eyes  wandering 
over  the  wall  of  whispering  people  round  him, 
and  repeating  to  himself  four  words  that  would 
not  leave  his  head:  "You've  had  your  fling!" 
Behind  him  the  puffy-faced  Pyotr  coughed. 
Somewhere  in  the  crowd  he  saw  Dunya's  eyes 
twinkling;  he  thought  he  recognized  other 
faces.  He  heard  the  dissonant  chorus  of  voices 
and  the  droning  responses  of  the  deacon.  He 
was  fettered  with  apathy.  He  followed  Father 
Vissarion  round  the  lectern,  treading  on  the 
heels  of  the  priest's  battered  boots;  he  halted 
when  Pyotr  gave  a  gentle  tug  at  his  frock-coat. 

164 


He  stared  at  the  flickering  little  tongues  of 
candleflame,  and  struggled  with  the  sleepy  tor- 
por which  had  taken  possession  of  him. 

"Exchange  rings!"  said  Father  Vissarion, 
giving  Grigory  a  lukewarm  smile. 

They  obeyed.  "Will  it  be  over  soon?" 
Grigory  mutely  asked,  as  he  caught  Pyotr's 
glance.  And  the  corners  of  Pyotr's  lips  twitched, 
stifling  a  smile.  "Soon  now."  Then  Grigory 
kissed  his  wife's  moist,  insipid  lips  three  times, 
the  church  began  to  smell  foully  of  extinguished 
candles,  and  the  crowd  pressed  towards  the  door. 

Holding  Natalya's  large,  rough  hand  in  his, 
Grigory  went  out  into  the  porch.  Someone 
clapped  his  hat  on  his  head.  A  warm  breeze 
from  the  east  brought  the  scent  of  wormwood 
to  his  nostrils.  The  cool  of  evening  came  from 
the  steppe.  Lightning  flickered  beyond  the 
Don,  rain  was  coming;  outside  the  white 
church  fence,  above  the  hum  of  voices  he  heard 
the  gentle  inviting  tinkle  of  the  bells  on  the 
restive  horses. 

xxni 

The  Korshunovs  did  not  arrive  at  the 
Melekhovs'  house  until  after  the  bride  and 
bridegroom  had  gone  to  the  church.  Several 
times  Pantelei  went  to  the  gate  to  see  whether 

165 


they  were  coming,  but  the  grey  road,  lined  with 
a  growth  of  prickly  thorns,  was  completely 
deserted.  He  shifted  his  eyes  towards  the  Don. 
The  forest  was  turning  a  golden  yellow.  The 
ripened  reeds  bent  wearily  over  the  Don-side 
marshes.  Blending  with  the  dusk,  the  sad  blue 
drowsiness  of  early  autumn  enwrapped  the 
village,  the  Don,  the  chalky  ridge  of  hills,  the 
forest  lurking  in  a  lilac  mist  beyond  the  river, 
and  the  steppe.  At  the  cross-roads  the  sharp 
outline  of  the  wayside  cross  was  silhouetted 
against  the  sky. 

Pantelei's  ears  caught  the  scarcely  audible 
sound  of  wheels  and  the  yapping  of  dogs.  Two 
wagonettes  turned  out  of  the  square  into  the 
street.  In  the  first  sat  Miron  with  his  wife  at 
his  side;  opposite  them  was  Grandad  Grishaka 
in  a  new  uniform,  wearing  his  Cross  of 
St.  George  and  his  medals.  Mitka  drove,  sit- 
ting carelessly  on  the  box,  and  not  troubling 
to  show  the  foaming  horses  his  whip.  In  the 
second  wagonette,  Mikhei,  leaning  backward, 
tugged  at  the  reins,  trying  to  reduce  the  horses' 
gallop  to  a  trot.  His  angular  browless  face 
was  scarlet,  sweat  was  streaming  down  from 
under  the  broken  peak  of  his  cap. 

Pantelei  threw  open  the  gate,  and  the  two 
wagonettes    drove    into    the    yard.    Ilyinichna 

166 


sailed  down  from  the  porch,  the  hem  of  her 
dress  trailing  in  the  dust. 

"Welcome,  dear  friends!  Do  our  poor  house 
the  honour  of  entering."  She  bent  her  corpulent 
waist  in  a  bow. 

His  head  on  one  side,  Pantelei  flung  open 
his  arms  and  welcomed  them:  "We  humbly 
invite  you  to  come  in!" 

He  called  for  the  horses  to  be  unharnessed 
and  went  up  to  the  father  of  his  daughter-in- 
law.  Miron  brushed  his  sharovari  with  his 
hand  to  get  the  dust  off  them.  Old  Grishaka, 
shaken  up  by  the  wild  ride,  lagged  behind. 

"Come  in,  come  in,  my  dears!"  Ilyinichna 
insisted. 

"Thank  you,  we're  just  coming." 

"We've  been  waiting  for  you,  do  come  in. 
I'll  bring  a  besom  for  you  to  brush  your  uni- 
form with.  There's  so  much  dust  about  at  this 
time  of  the  year,  it's  hard  to  breathe." 

"Yes,  indeed,  it's  very  dry.  . .  ,  That's  what 
makes  the  dust.  .  . .  Don't  trouble  yourself,  my 
dear,  I'll  just.  . . ."  Bowing  to  his  slow-witted 
hostess,  old  Grishaka  backed  away  towards 
the  bam  and  took  refuge  behind  a  painted 
winnowing  machine. 

"Can't  you  leave  the  old  man  alone,  you 
fool!"  Pantelei  snorted,  intercepting  his  wife 
on    the    steps.    "He  wants    to    do    something, 

167 


and  you  keep. .  .  .  Where  are  your  brains, 
woman!" 

"How  should  I  know?"  Ilyinichna  protested 
blushing.  "You  ought  to  guess.  Never  mind, 
take  the  guests  to  table." 

The  bride's  family  were  taken  into  the  best 
room,  where  a  crowd  of  already  half-intoxicat- 
ed guests  was  sitting  round  the  table.  Soon 
after  their  arrival  the  newly-married  couple 
returned  from  the  church.  As  they  entered 
Pantelei  filled  the  glasses  from  a  half-gallon 
bottle,  tears  standing  in  his  eyes. 

"Well,  Miron  Grigoryevich,  here's  to  our 
children!  May  their  life  be  filled  with  good,  as 
ours  has  been.  May  they  live  happily,  and 
enjoy  the  best  of  health." 

They  poured  Grandfather  Grishaka  a  large 
glass  of  vodka,  and  succeeded  in  sending  half 
of  it  into  his  beard-mildewed  mouth  and  half 
down  the  stiff  collar  of  his  uniform.  Glasses 
were  clinked  together.  The  company  drank  and 
drank.  The  hubbub  was  like  the  noise  of  a 
market.  A  distant  relation  of  the  Korshunovs, 
Nikifor  Koloveidin,  who  was  sitting  at  the  far 
end  of  the  table,  raised  his  glass  and  roared 
the  traditional  words: 

"It's  bitter!" 

"Bitter!  Bitter!"  the  guests  seated  around 
the  table  clamoured  after  him. 

168 


"Oh,  bitter!"  came  the  response  from  the 
crowded  kitchen. 

Scowling,  Grigory  kissed  his  wife's  insipid 
lips  and  sent  a  hunted  glance  round  the  room. 
A  crimson  fever  of  faces.  Coarse,  drunkenly 
muddy  glances  and  smiles.  Mouths  chewing 
greedily,  slobbering  on  the  embroidered 
tablecloth.  A  howl  of  voices. 

Koloveidin  opened  wide  his  gap-toothed 
mouth. 

"It's  bitter!"  the  long-service  badges  on  the 
sleeve  of  his  blue  Guards  uniform  wrinkled  as 
he  raised  his  glass. 

"Bitter!"  the  cry  was  taken  up  once  more. 

Grigory  stared  with  hatred  into  Koloveidin's 
mouth  and  noticed  the  livid  tongue  between 
his  teeth  as  he  cried,  "Bitter!" 

"Kiss,  little  chicks!"  Pyotr  spluttered,  twitch- 
ing his   vodka-soaked  moustache. 

In  the  kitchen  Darya,  flushed  and  intoxicated, 
began  a  song.  It  was  taken  up  by  the  others 
and  passed  into  the  best  room.  The  voices 
blended,  but  above  all  the  rest  rose  Christonya's 
rumble,  shaking  the  window-panes. 

The  song  ended  and  eating  was  resumed. 

"Here's  to  a  good  time,  good  people...!" 

"Try  this  mutton!" 

"Take  your  paw  away,  my  husband's  look- 
ing!" 

169 


"Bitter!  Bitter!" 

"No,  I  don't  want  any  of  your  mutton.  May- 
be I  like  sterlet  better.  Yes,  I  do  . .  .  it's  juicy.'' 

"Cousin  Proshka,  let's  have  another  one." 

"Ah,  that  warms  the  cockles  of  your 
heart.  .  .  ." 

In  the  kitchen  the  floor  groaned  and  shook, 
heels  clattered,  and  a  glass  fell  to  the  floor, 
but  the  crash  was  lost  in  the  general  uproar. 
Across  the  heads  of  those  sitting  at  the  table 
Grigory  glanced  into  the  kitchen.  The  women 
were  dancing  now,  to  the  accompaniment  of 
shouts  and  whistles.  They  shook  their  ample 
bottoms  (there  was  not  a  thin  one  there,  for 
each  was  wearing  five  or  six  skirts),  waved 
lace  handkerchiefs,  and  worked  their  elbows 
in  the  dance. 

The  grating  notes  of  the  accordion  sounded 
imperatively.  The  player  began  the  tune  of  the 
Cossack  dance.  A  shout  went  up: 

"A  circle!  Form  a  circle!" 

"Squeeze  up  a  bit!"  Pyotr  begged,  pushing 
the  perspiring  women  aside. 

Grigory  roused  himself  and  winked  at 
Natalya: 

"Pyotr's  going  to  dance  the  'Cossack'!  You 
watch  him!" 

"Who  with?" 

"Don't  you  see?  With  your  mother." 

170 


Marya  Lukinichna  set  her  arms  akimbo,  her 
handkerchief  in  her  left  hand.  Pyotr  went  up 
to  her  with  mincing  steps,  cut  a  fine  caper  and 
retreated  to  his  place.  Lukinichna  picked  up 
her  skirt  as  though  about  to  step  over  a  puddle, 
picked  out  the  rhythm  with  her  toe,  and  danced 
amid  a  roar  of  approbation,  kicking  out  her 
legs  like  a  man. 

The  accordion  player  rushed  out  a  volley  of 
low  notes  that  swept  Pyotr  into  action,  and 
with  a  shout  he  dropped  to  a  squatting  position 
and  danced  round,  smacking  the  palms  of  his 
hands  against  the  legs  of  his  boots  and  biting 
the  tip  of  his  moustache  in  the  corner  of  his 
mouth.  He  swung  his  feet  in  and  out  at  great 
speed;  his  damp  forelock  tossed  wildly  on  his 
head,  but  could  not  keep  up  with  his  feet. 

Grigory's  view  was  blocked  by  the  crowd 
at  the  door.  He  heard  only  the  shouts  of  the 
drunken  guests  and  the  drumming  of  iron- 
shod  heels,  like  the  crackle  of  a  burning  pine- 
board. 

Then  Miron  danced  with  Ilyinichna;  he 
stepped  out  seriously  and  with  his  accustomed 
businesslike  air.  Pantelei  stood  on  a  stool  to 
watch  them,  dangling  his  lame  leg  and  click- 
ing his  tongue.  Instead  of  his  legs  his  lips  and 
ear-ring  danced. 

The  dance  was  taken  up  by  experts  and  by 

171 


others  who  could  not  even  bend  a  leg  proper- 
ly. All  of  them  were  shouted  at: 

"Go  it!" 

"Smaller  steps!  Oh,  you.  .  .  \" 

"His  legs  are  light  enough,  but  his  bottom 
gets  in  his  way." 

"Oh,  get  on  with  it!" 

"Our  side's  winning." 

"Come  on!" 

"Tired,  are  you?  I'll  crack  a  bottle  over  your 
head  if  you  don't  dance." 

Grandfather  Grishaka  was  completely  drunk. 
He  embraced  the  bony  back  of  his  neighbour 
on  the  bench,  and  buzzed  like  a  mosquito  in 
his  ear: 

"What  year  did  you  first  see  service?" 

His  neighbour,  an  old  man  bent  like  an 
ancient   oak,  replied: 

"1839,  my  son!" 

"When?"   Grishaka  stuck   out  his  ear. 

"1839,  I  told  you." 

"What's  your  name?  What  regiment  did  you 
serve  in?" 

"Maxim  Bogatiryov.  I  was  corporal  in 
Baklanov's  regiment." 

"Are  you  related  to  the  Melekhovs?" 

"What?" 

"I  asked,  are  you  related?" 

772 


"Uh-huh!  I'm  the  bridegroom's  grandfather 
on  his  mother's  side." 

"In  Baklanov's  regiment,  did  you  say?" 

The  old  man,  vainly  munching  a  piece  of 
bread  with  his  toothless  gums,  gazed  at 
Grishaka  with  faded  eyes,  and  nodded. 

"So  you  must  have  been  through  the 
Caucasian  campaign?" 

"I  served  under  Baklanov  himself,  may  he 
rest  in  heaven,  helped  to  conquer  the  Caucasus. 
We  had  some  rare  Cossacks  in  our  regiment. 
They  were  as  tall  as  the  guards,  though  they 
weren't  so  straight.  Great,  long-armed,  broad- 
shouldered  fellows,  not  like  the  ones  nowadays. 
That's  the  men  we  had,  my  son!  His  excellency 
the  late  general  was  good  enough  to  give  me 
the  cat  for  stealing  a  carpet.  .  .  ." 

"And  I  was  in  the  Turkish  campaign.  Eh? 
Yes,  I  was  there." 

Old  Grishaka  puffed  out  his  sunken  chest 
jingling  with  medals. 

"We  took  a  village  at  dawn,  and  at  mid-day 
the  bugler  sounded  the  alarm." 

"We  were  fighting  around  Rossitz  and  our 
regiment,  the  Twelfth  Don  Cossack,  was 
engaged  with  the  janissaries." 

"The  bugler  sounded  that  alarm.  .  .  ." 

"Yes,"  Grishaka  went  on,  beginning  to  get 
annoyed  and    angrily  waving  his   hand.    "The 

173 


Turkish  janissaries  serve  their  tsar  and  wear 
white  sacks  on  their  heads.  Huh?  White  sacks 
on  their  heads." 

",  . .  The  bugler  sounded  the  alarm,  and  I 
said  to  my  comrade:  'We'll  have  to  retreat, 
Timofei,  but  first  we'll  have  that  carpet  off  the 
wall.'  " 

"I  have  been  decorated  with  two  Georges, 
awarded  for  heroism  under  fire.  I  took  a 
Turkish  major  alive."  Grandfather  Grishaka 
began  to  weep  and  to  bang  his  withered  fist  on 
his  neighbour's  spine.  But  the  latter,  dipping 
a  piece  of  chicken  in  the  cherry  jelly,  lifeless- 
ly stared  at  the  soiled  tablecloth  and  mumbled: 

"And  just  listen  to  what  sin  the  evil  spirit 
led  me  into,  my  son!"  The  old  man's  eyes 
stared  fixedly  at  the  white  creases  of  the 
tablecloth  as  if  they  saw  not  a  tablecloth 
soaked  in  vodka  and  soup  but  the  dazzling 
snowy  folds  of  the  Caucasian  mountains.  "I'd 
never  before  taken  anything  that  wasn't  mine, 
but  now  I  happened  to  see  that  carpet,  and  I 
thought,  'That  would  make  a  good  horsecloth.'  " 

"I've  seen  those  parts  myself.  I've  been  in 
lands  across  the  sea  as  well,"  Grishaka  tried 
to  look  his  neighbour  in  the  eyes,  but  the  deep 
sockets  were  overgrown  with  shaggy  thickets 
of  eyebrows  and  beard.  So  he  resorted  to 
craft.  He  wanted  to  win  his  neighbour's  atten- 

174 


tion  for  the  climax  of  his  story,  and  he  plunged 
into  the  middle  of  it  without  any  preliminaries: 
"And  the  captain  gives  the  order:  'In  troop 
columns  at  the  gallop!  Forward!'" 

But  the  old  Baklanov  regiment  Cossack 
threw  back  his  head  like  a  charger  at  the  sound 
of  the  trumpet  and,  dropping  his  fist  on  the 
table,  whispered: 

"Lances  at  the  ready!  Draw  sabres,  Bakla- 
nov's  men!"  His  voice  suddenly  grew  stronger, 
his  faded  eyes  glittered  and  blazed.  "Baklanov's 
boys!"  he  roared,  opening  wide  his  toothless 
yellow  jaws.    "Into  attack-forward!" 

And  he  gazed  at  Grishaka  with  a  youthful 
and  intelligent  look,  and  let  the  tears  trickling 
over  his  beard  fall  unwiped. 

Grishaka  also  grew  excited: 

"He  gave  us  this  command,  and  waved  his 
sword.  We  galloped  forward,  and  the  janis- 
saries were  drawn  up  like  this,"  he  drew  a 
square  on  the  tablecloth  with  a  shaky  finger, 
"and  firing  at  us.  Twice  we  charged  them. 
Each  time  they  beat  us  back.  Whenever  we 
tried,  their  cavalry  came  out  of  a  little  wood 
on  their  flank.  So  our  troop  commander  gave 
the  order  and  we  turned  and  went  at  them. 
We  smashed  them.  Rode  them  down.  What 
cavalry  in  the  world  can  stand  up  against 
Cossacks?  They  fled    into    the    wood.    I    saw 

175 


their  officer  just  in  front  of  me,  riding  on  a 
bay.  A  good-looking  officer,  black  whiskers 
he  had.  He  looked  back  at  me  and  drew  his 
pistol.  Bang!  But  he  missed  me.  I  spurred  my 
horse  and  caught  up  with  him.  I  was  going  to 
cut  him  down,  but  then  I  thought  better  of  it. 
After  all,  he  was  a  man  too.  So  I  grabbed  him 
round  the  waist  with  my  right  arm,  and  he 
flew  out  of  the  saddle.  He  bit  my  arm,  but  I 
took  him  all  the  same.  .  .  ." 

Grishaka  glanced  triumphantly  at  his  neigh- 
bour, but  the  old  man's  great  angular  head  had 
fallen  on  to  his  chest,  and  he  was  snoring 
contentedly. 


PART    TWO 


S 


ergei  Platonovich  Mokhov 
could  trace  his  ancestry 
a  long  way  back. 

During  the  reign  of  Peter  the  First  a  state 
barge  had  been  travelling  down  the  Don  to 
Azov  with  a  cargo  of  biscuit  and  gunpowder. 
The  Cossacks  of  the  little  rebel  town  of  Chigo- 
naki,  nestling  on  the  bank  of  the  upper  Don, 
fell  on  the  barge  by  night,  destroyed  the  sleepy 
guards,  pillaged  the  biscuit  and  gunpowder  and 
sank  the  vessel. 

The  tsar  ordered  out  soldiers  from  Voronezh, 
and  they  burned  down  the  town  of  Chigonaki, 
ruthlessly  put  the  guilty  Cossacks  to  the 
sword,  and  hanged  forty  of  them  on  a  floating 
gallows,  which,  as  warning  to  the  unruly  vil- 
lages, was  sent  sailing  down  the  Don. 

12—1933  m 


Some  ten  years  later  the  spot  where  the 
hearths  of  the  Chigonaki  huts  had  smoked 
began  again  to  be  inhabited  by  Cossack  set- 
tlers and  those  who  had  survived  the  sacking. 
The  stanitsa  grew  up  again  with  defensive 
ramparts  round  it.  At  the  same  time,  a  secret 
agent  of  the  tsar,  a  Russian  peasant  named 
Mokhov,  was  sent  to  Chigonaki  from  Voronezh. 
He  traded  in  knife-hafts,  tobacco,  flints,  and 
the  other  odds  and  ends  necessary  to  the  Cos- 
sacks' everyday  life.  He  bought  up  and  resold 
stolen  goods,  and  twice  a  year  journeyed  to 
Voronezh,  ostensibly  to  replenish  his  stocks, 
but  in  reality  to  report  to  the  authorities  that 
the  stanitsa  was  for  the  time  being  quiet  and 
the  Cossacks  were  not  contemplating  any  fresh 
mischief. 

It  was  from  this  Russian  peasant  Nikita 
Mokhov  that  the  merchant  family  of  Mokhovs 
was  descended.  They  took  deep  root  in  the 
Cossack  earth;  they  multiplied  and  grew  into 
the  district  like  sturdy  roadside  weeds,  rev- 
erently preserving  the  half-rotten  credentials 
given  to  their  ancestor  by  the  governor  of 
Voronezh.  The  credentials  might  have  been 
preserved  until  this  day  had  they  not  been 
burned  in  their  wooden  box  behind  the  icon 
during  a  great  fire  which  occurred  in  the  life- 
time   of    Sergei    Mokhov's    grandfather.    This 

178 


Mokhov  had  already  ruined  himself  once  by 
card-playing,  but  was  getting  on  to  his  feet 
again  when  the  fire  engulfed  everything.  After 
burying  his  paralytic  father,  Sergei  had  to 
begin  afresh,  starting  by  buying  bristles  and 
feathers.  For  five  years  he  lived  miserably, 
swindling  and  squeezing  the  Cossacks  of  the 
district  out  of  every  kopeck,  then  he  suddenly 
jumped  from  "peddler  Seryozhka"  to  "Sergei 
Platonovich,"  opened  a  little  drapery  shop, 
married  the  daughter  of  a  half-demented  priest, 
from  whom  he  got  a  sizeable  dowry,  and  set 
up  as  a  linen  draper.  Sergei  Platonovich  began 
to  trade  in  textiles  at  just  the  right  moment. 
On  the  instructions  of  the  army  authorities, 
about  this  time  the  Cossacks  were  migrating  in 
entire  villages  from  the  left  bank  of  the  Don, 
where  the  ground  was  unproductive  and  sandy, 
to  the  right  bank.  Buildings  sprang  up 
round  the  young  stanitsa  of  Krasnokutskaya; 
new  villages  hatched  out  on  the  edge  of  former 
estates,  on  the  banks  of  the  rivers  Chir, 
Chomaya  and  Frolovka,  and  over  valleys  and 
ravines  in  the  steppe,  side  by  side  with  Ukrain- 
ian settlements.  And  instead  of  having  to 
journey  fifty  versts  or  more  for  goods  they 
found  Sergei  Mokhov's  shop,  its  fresh  deal 
shelves  packed  with  attractive  commodities, 
right   on   the   spot.    Sergei   flung  his    business 

12*  179 


wide,  like  a  full-size  accordion,  and  traded  in 
everything  requisite  to  simple  village  life- 
hides,  salt,  kerosene,  haberdashery.  He  even 
began  to  supply  agricultural  machinery.  Reap- 
ers, seeders,  ploughs,  winnowers  from  the 
Aksaisk  factory  were  drawn  up  in  neat  order 
outside  the  shop,  whose  cool  green  shutters 
kept  it  well  protected  from  the  summer's  heat. 
It  is  hard  to  count  the  money  in  another's  purse, 
but  it  seems  that  the  quick-witted  Sergei's 
trading  yielded  him  considerable  profit,  for 
within  three  years  he  had  opened  a  grain  ele- 
vator, and  the  following  year  after  the  death 
of  his  first  wife  he  began  the  construction  of  a 
steam  flour-mill. 

He  squeezed  Tatarsky  and  the  neighbouring 
villages  tightly  in  his  swarthy  fist  with  its 
sparse  covering  of  glossy  black  hairs.  There 
was  not  a  home  that  was  not  in  debt  to  Sergei 
Mokhov:  a  green  slip  with  an  orange  border 
saying  that  a  reaper  had  been  given  on  credit 
to  so-and-so,  a  bride's  outfit  for  the  daughter 
to  someone  else  (time  to  marry  the  girl  off  and 
the  Paramonovo  elevator  was  cutting  its  prices 
on  wheat-"Put  it  on  my  account,  Mokhov"), 
and  so  it  went  on.  Nine  hands  were  employed 
at  the  mill,  seven  in  the  shop,  and  four  la- 
bourers: altogether  twenty  mouths  dependent 
on  the  merchant's  pleasure  for  their  daily  bread. 

180 


He  had  two  children  by  his  first  wife:  the  girl 
Liza  and  a  boy  two  years  younger,  the  sluggish, 
scrofulous  Vladimir.  His  second  wife,  Anna,  a 
dry,  sharp-nosed  creature,  was  childless.  All 
her  belated  mother-love  and  accumulated  spleen 
(she  had  not  married  until  the  age  of  thirty- 
four)  were  poured  out  on  the  children.  Her  nerv- 
ous temperament  had  a  bad  influence  on 
them,  and  their  father  paid  them  no  more 
attention  than  he  gave  his  stable-hand  or  cook. 
His  business  activities  occupied  all  his  time. 
The  children  grew  up  uncontrolled.  His  insen- 
sitive wife  made  no  attempt  to  penetrate  into 
the  secrets  of  the  child  mind,  the  affairs  of  her 
large  household  took  too  much  of  her  time,  and 
the  brother  and  sister  grew  up  alien  to  each 
other,  different  in  character,  as  though  they 
were  not  related.  Vladimir  was  sullen,  sluggish, 
with  a  sly  look  and  unchildish  seriousness. 
Liza,  who  lived  in  the  society  of  the  maid  and 
the  cook  (the  latter  a  dissolute,  much  too  ex- 
perienced woman),  early  saw  the  seamy  side  of 
life.  The  women  aroused  an  unhealthy  curi- 
osity in  her,  and  while  still  an  angular  and  bash- 
ful adolescent,  left  to  her  own  devices,  she  had 
grown  as  wild  as  the  true-love  flower  in  the 
forest. 

The    unhurrying    years  flowed    by.  The    old 
girew  older  and  the  young  grew  green  of  leaf, 

IB! 


One  evening  Sergei  Platonovich  glanced  at 
his  daughter  across  the  tea-table,  and  was 
startled,  Liza,  who  had  just  left  high  school, 
had  grown  into  a  slender  good-looking  girl.  He 
looked  at  her  and  the  saucer  filled  with  amber- 
coloured  tea  trembled  in  his  hand.  How  like 
her  mother  she  was!  God,  her  very  image! 
"Liza,  turn  your  head  sideways!"  He  had  never 
before  noticed  how  amazingly  his  daughter 
resembled  her  mother. 

Vladimir  Mokhov,  a  narrow-chested,  sickly- 
yellow  lad  now  in  the  fifth  form  at  school,  was 
walking  through  the  mill  yard.  He  and  his 
sister  had  recently  returned  home  for  the  sum- 
mer vacation,  and,  as  usual,  he  had  gone  along 
to  look  at  the  mill,  jostle  among  the  flour- 
sprinkled  crowd  and  listen  to  the  steady  rum- 
ble of  cog-wheels  and  rollers,  and  the  hiss  of 
whirling  belts.  It  ministered  to  his  vanity  to 
hear  the  respectful  murmur  of  the  Cossack 
customers:  "The  master's  heir.  .  .  ." 

Carefully  picking  his  way  among  the  wagons 
and  the  heaps  of  dung,  Vladimir  reached  the 
gate.  Then  he  remembered  he  had  not  been 
to  see  the  engine  room,  and  turned  back. 

Close  to  the  red  oil-tank,  at  the  entrance  to 
the  engine  room,  the  mill-hand  Timofei,  a 
scalesman  nicknamed   "Knave,"   and  Timofei's 

m 


assistant  David  were  kneading  a  great  ring  of 
clay  with  bare  feet,  their  trousers  rolled  up 
above  their  knees. 

"Ah!  The  master!"  the  scalesman  greeted 
him  jokingly, 

"Good-afternoon.  What  are  you  doing?" 

"Mixing  clay,"  David  said  with  an  unpleas- 
ant smile,  dragging  his  feet  out  of  the  clinging 
mass,  which  smelled  of  dung.  "Your  father's 
careful  of  the  rubles,  and  won't  hire  women  to 
do  it.  Your  father's  a  screw,  that  he  is,"  he 
added,  making  a  squelching  noise  with  his  feet. 

Vladimir  flushed.  He  felt  an  unconquerable 
dislike  for  the  ever-smiling  David  and  his 
contemptuous  tone,  even  for  his  white  teeth. 

"What  do  you  mean,  'a  screw'?" 

"He's  terribly  mean,  he'd  eat  his  own  dirt  if 
it  paid  him,"  David  explained  with  a  smile. 

The  others  laughed  approvingly.  Vladimir 
felt  all  the  smart  of  the  insult.  He  stared  cold- 
ly at  David. 

"So  you're   . . ,  dissatisfied?" 

"Come  into  this  mess  and  mix  it  yourself, 
and  then  you'll  know.  What  fool  would  be 
satisfied?  It  would  do  your  father  good  to  do 
some  of  this.  Take  some  of  the  fat  off  his 
belly,"  David  replied.  He  trod  heavily  around 
the  ring  of  clay,  kneading  it  with  his  feet,  now 
smiling    gaily.    Foretasting    a    sweet    revenge, 

183 


Vladimir  turned  over  a  fitting  reply  in  his 
mind. 

"Good!"  he  said  slowly.  "I'll  tell  Papa  you're 
not  satisfied  with  your  work." 

He  glanced  sidelong  at  the  man's  face,  and 
was  startled  by  the  impression  he  had  caused. 
David's  lips  were  twisted  in  a  forced  pitiful 
smile,  and  the  faces  of  the  others  were  cloud- 
ed over.  All  three  went  on  kneading  the  clay 
for  a  moment  in  silence.  Then  David  tore  his 
eyes  away  from  his  muddy  feet,  and  said  in  a 
wheedling,  bitter  tone:  "I  was  only  joking, 
Volodya." 

"I'll  tell  Papa  what  you  said."  With  tears  of 
injury  in  his  eyes  for  his  father  and  himself, 
and  for  David's  miserable  smile,  Vladimir 
walked  away. 

"Volodya!  Vladimir  Sergeyevich !"  David 
called  after  him  in  alarm,  and  stepped  out  of 
the  clay,  letting  his  trousers  fall  over  his  be- 
spattered legs. 

Vladimir  halted.  David  ran  to  him  breathing 
heavily. 

"Don't  tell  your  father!  Forgive  me,  fool  that 
I  am.  Honest  to  God,  I  just  said  it  to  tease 
you." 

"All  right,  I  won't  tell  him,"  Vladimir  replied 
with  a  grimace,  and  walked  on  towards  the  gate. 
Pity  for  David  had  won.  He  walked  along  by 

184 


the  white  fence  with  a  feeling  of  relief.  From 
the  forge  in  the  corner  of  the  mill-yard,  the 
cheerful  tapping  of  a  hammer  could  be  heard, 
now  soft  and  muffled  as  it  struck  the  iron,  now 
a  hard  and  ringing  double  tap  on  the  anvil. 

"What  did  you  want  to  say  that  for?" 
Knave's  deep  voice  reached  his  ears.  "Don't 
stir  dung,  and  it  won't  stink." 

"The  swine!"  Vladimir  thought  indignantly. 
"So  he  answers  back.  .  .  ,  Shall  I  tell  Father  or 
not?"  Glancing  back,  he  saw  David  wearing 
his  everlasting  smile,  and  decided:  "I'll  tell!" 

A  horse  and  wagon  stood  hitched  to  a  post 
outside  the  shop.  Children  were  chasing  a  twit- 
tering grey  cloud  of  sparrows  off  the  roof  of 
the  fire-house.  From  the  verandah  came  the 
sonorous  baritone  of  the  student  Boyarishkin, 
and  another  voice-cracked  and  husky. 

Vladimir  went  up  the  steps  of  the  house. 
The  leaves  of  the  wild  vine  grew  thickly  over 
the  porch  and  verandah  and  hung  in  foaming 
green  bunches  from  the  carved  blue-painted 
eaves. 

Boyarishkin  was  shaking  his  blue-shaven 
head  and  addressing  the  teacher  Balanda,  a 
young  man  but  already  bearded. 

"When  I  read  him,  despite  the  fact  that  I'm 
the  son  of  a  toiling  Cossack  and  naturally  hate 
all  privileged  classes,  just  imagine  it,  I  feel  an 

185 


acute  pity  for  that  moribund  section  of  so- 
ciety. I  nearly  turn  into  a  nobleman  and  land- 
lord myself,  I  study  their  ideal  woman  with 
rapture.  I  even  take  their  interests  to  heart, 
damn  it!  Yes,  my  friend,  that's  what  a  genius 
can  do.  He  can  even  make  you  change  your 
creed." 

Balanda  toyed  with  the  tassel  of  his  silk 
sash  and  examined  the  red  embroidery  on  the 
hem  of  his  shirt,  smiling  ironically.  Liza  lay 
back  in  the  armchair.  The  conversation 
evidently  did  not  interest  her  in  the  least.  With 
eyes  that  always  seemed  to  be  looking  for 
something  they  had  lost  she  was  staring 
aimlessly  at  Boyarishkin's  blue,  razor-scratched 
head. 

Bowing  to  them,  Vladimir  went  to  his  fa- 
ther's private  room  and  knocked.  Sergei  Plato- 
novich  was  sitting  on  a  cool  leather  couch,  turn- 
ing over  the  pages  of  the  June  issue  of  Rus- 
skoye  Bogatstvo.  A  yellowed  bone  paper-knife 
lay  at  his  feet. 

"Well,  what  do  you  want?" 

Vladimir  hunched  his  shoulders  slightly  and 
straightened  the  folds  of  his  shirt. 

"As  I  was  coming  back  from  the  mill," 
Vladimir  began  uncertainly.  But  then  he  re- 
called David's  dazzling  smile,  and  gazing  at  his 
father's  corpulent    belly  in  its    tussore    waist- 

m 


coat,  he  resolutely  continued:  "I  heard  David, 
the  mill-hand,  say.  .  .  ." 

Sergei  Platonovich  listened  attentively  to  his 
son's  story,  and  said:  "I'll  sack  him.  You  may 
go."  Then  he  bent  with  a  groan  to  pick  up  the 
paper-knife. 

In  the  evenings  the  intelligentsia  of  the  vil- 
lage were  in  the  habit  of  gathering  at  Sergei 
Mokhov's  house.  There  was  Boyarishkin,  a  stu- 
dent of  the  Moscow  Technical  School;  the  puny 
teacher  Balanda,  eaten  up  with  conceit  and  tu- 
berculosis; his  cohabitant  the  teacher  Marfa, 
a  shapely  girl  whose  petticoat  always  showed 
indecently,  and  who  never  seemed  to  grow  any 
older;  and  the  postmaster,  an  eccentric,  rather 
musty  bachelor  smelling  of  sealing-wax  and 
cheap  scent.  Occasionally  the  young  lieutenant, 
Yevgeny  Listnitsky,  rode  over  from  his  father's 
estate.  The  company  would  sit  drinking  tea  on 
the  verandah,  carrying  on  a  pointless  conver- 
sation, and  when  there  was  a  lull  in  the  talk 
one  of  the  guests  would  get  up  and  set  going 
the  host's  expensive  inlaid  gramophone. 

On  rare  occasions,  during  the  great  holidays, 
Sergei  Platonovich  liked  to  cut  a  dash:  he  in- 
vited guests  and  regaled  them  with  expensive 
wines,  fresh  caviare,  ordered  from  Bataisk  for 
the  occasion,  and  the  finest  of  hors-d'oeuvres. 
At  other  times  he  lived  frugally.  The  one  thing 

t87 


in  regard  to  which  he  exercised  no  self-re- 
straint was  the  purchase  of  books.  He  loved 
reading,  and  liked  to  get  to  the  bottom  of  things 
with  his  own  mind,  which  was  tenacious  as 
bindweed. 

His  partner,  Yemelyan  Konstantinovich 
Atyopin,  a  fair-haired  man  with  a  pointed 
beard  and  hidden  slits  of  eyes,  rarely  visited 
Mokhov.  He  was  married  to  a  former  nun,  had 
had  eight  children  by  her  in  fifteen  years  of 
married  life,  and  stayed  at  home  most  of  the 
time.  He  had  begun  his  career  as  a  regimental 
clerk,  and  the  fusty  spirit  of  cringing  and  in- 
gratiation  brought  from  there  permeated  his 
family  also.  His  children  walked  on  tiptoe  in 
his  presence,  and  talked  in  whispers.  Every 
morning  after  washing,  they  lined  up  in  the 
dining-room  under  the  black  hanging  coffin 
of  the  huge  clock.  Their  mother  stood 
behind  them,  and  as  soon  as  the  dry  cough 
was  heard  from  the  bedroom,  they  would 
begin  discordantly  "Our  Father"  and  other 
prayers. 

Yemelyan  Konstantinovich  would  be  dressed 
and  emerge  from  the  bedroom  by  the  time  the 
prayers  were  ended.  Screwing  up  his  tiny  green 
eyes,  he  would  extend  his  fleshy  hand  as  though 
he  were  a  bishop,  while  the  children  ap- 
proached him  in  single  file  to  kiss  it.  Then  Yeme- 

188 


lyan  Konstantinovich  would  kiss  his  wife  on 
the  cheek  and  ask,  lisping: 

"Polya,  is  the  tea  ready?" 

"It  is,  Yemelyan  Konstantinovich." 

"Pour  me  some  strong  tea." 

He  was  the  shop's  accountant.  He  covered 
the  pages  under  their  bold-faced  headings, 
"Debit"  and  "Credit,"  with  his  flowery  clerk's 
handwriting.  He  read  the  Stock  Exchange  News, 
adorning  his  lumpy  nose  with  a  gold-rimmed 
pince-nez  for  which  he  had  no  need.  He  treated 
his  employees  politely. 

"Ivan  Petrovich,  please  show  the  Taurida 
calico  to  the  customer." 

His  wife  called  him  Yemelyan  Konstantino- 
vich, his  children-Papa,  his  shop  assistants- 
blah-blah. 

The  two  village  priests.  Father  Vissarion  and 
the  pious  Father  Pankraty,  were  not  on  friendly 
terms  with  Sergei  Platonovich.  They  had  a 
long-standing  quarrel  with  him.  Nor  were  they 
on  very  amicable  terms  with  each  other.  The 
fractious,  intriguing  Father  Pankraty  was  clev- 
er at  making  trouble  for  his  neighbours,  and  the 
widower  Father  Vissarion  with  a  syphilitic 
twang  in  his  voice  that  belied  his  affable  na- 
ture, who  lived  with  a  Ukrainian  housekeeper, 
held  himself  aloof,  and  had  no  love  for  Father 

189 


Pankraty  because  of  his  inordinate  pride   and 
intriguing  character. 

All  except  the  teacher  Balanda  owned  their 
own  houses.  Mokhov's  big  house,  faced  with 
match-board  and  painted  blue,  stood  in  the 
square;  right  opposite,  in  the  centre  of  the 
square  squatted  his  shop  with  its  glass  door 
and  faded  signboard.  Attached  to  the  shop  was 
a  long,  low  shed  with  a  cellar,  and  a  hundred 
paces  farther  on  rose  the  brick  wall  of  the 
church  yard  and  the  church  itself  with  a  cupola 
that  looked  like  a  ripe  green  onion.  Beyond  the 
church  were  the  whitewashed,  officially  severe 
walls  of  the  school,  and  two  smart-looking 
houses,  one  blue,  with  blue-painted  fences,  be- 
longing to  Father  Pankraty;  the  other  brown 
(to  avoid  any  resemblance)  with  carved  fencing 
and  a  broad  balcony,  belonging  to  Father  Vis- 
sarion.  Then  came  Atyopin's  strangely  narrow 
two-storied  house,  the  post  office,  the  thatched 
and  iron-roofed  houses  of  the  Cossacks  and 
finally  the  sloping  back  of  the  mill,  with  rusty 
tin  cocks  on  its  roof. 

The  inhabitants  of  the  village  lived  behind 
their  barred  and  bolted  double  shutters,  cut 
off  from  all  the  rest  of  the  world.  Every  eve- 
ning, unless  they  were  paying  a  visit  to  a  neigh- 
bour, each  family  shot  the  bolts  of  their  doors, 

190 


unchained  their  dogs  in  the  yards,  and  only 
the  sound  of  the  wooden  tongue  of  the  night 
watchman's  clapper  disturbed   the   silence. 


II 


One  day  towards  the  end  of  August  Mitka 
Korshunov  happened  to  meet  Liza  Mokhova 
down  by  the  river.  He  had  just  rowed  across 
from  the  other  side,  and  as  he  was  fastening 
up  his  boat  he  saw  a  light  gaily-painted  skiff 
skimming  the  stream.  It  was  being  rowed  by 
the  student  Boyarishkin.  His  shaven  head 
glistened  with  perspiration,  and  the  veins 
stood  out  on  his  forehead. 

Mitka  did  not  recognize  Liza  in  the  skiff  at 
first,  for  her  straw  hat  threw  her  face  into  shad- 
ow. Her  sunburnt  hands  were  pressing  a 
bunch  of  yellow  water-lilies  to  her  breast. 

"Korshunov!"  she  called,  shaking  her  head 
at  Mitka.  "You've  deceived  me." 

"Deceived  you?" 

"Don't  you  remember,  you  promised  to  take 
me  fishing?" 

Boyarishkin  dropped  the  oars  and  straight- 
ened his  back.  The  skiff  thrust  its  nose  into  the 
shore  with  a  scrunch. 

"Do  you  remember?"  Liza  laughed,  as  she 
jumped  out. 

191 


"I  haven't  had  the  time.  Too  much  work  to 
do,"  Mitka  said  apologetically,  catching  his 
breath  as  the  girl  approached  him. 

"No,  it's  impossible,"  Boyarishkin  inter- 
rupted. "I've  had  enough,  Yelizaveta.  You  have 
had  all  the  service  you  will  get  from  me!  The 
distance  we  have  covered  over  this  confounded 
v/ater!  My  hands  are  all  blisters.  Give  me  dry 
land." 

Boyarishkin  planted  a  long  bare  foot  on  the 
gravelly  shore  and  mopped  his  forehead  with 
the  top  of  his  crumpled  student's  cap.  Without 
replying,  Liza  went  up  to  Mitka.  He  clumsily 
shook  the  hand  she  offered  him. 

"Well,  then,  when  shall  we  go  fishing?"  she 
asked  with  a  toss  of  her  head,  narrowing  her 
eyes. 

"Tomorrow  if  you  like.  We've  done  the 
threshing  and  I've  got  more  time  now." 

"You're  not  deceiving  me  this  time?" 

"No,  I'm  not!" 

"Will  you  come  early?" 

"At   dawn." 

"I'll  be  waiting  for  you." 

"I'll  come,  honestly  I  will." 

"You  haven't  forgotten  the  window?" 

"I'll  find  it." 

"I  am  going  away  soon,  I  expect.  And  I'd 
like  to  go  fishing  first." 

192 


Mitka  toyed  silently  with  the  rusty  key  for 
locking  up  the  boat,  and  looked  straight  at  her 
lips. 

"Will  you  be  through  soon?"  asked  Boyarish- 
kin,  examining  a  shell  lying  in  his  palm. 

"In  a  minute." 

She  was  silent  a  moment,  then,  smiling  to 
herself,  she  asked: 

"You've  had  a  wedding  in  your  family, 
haven't  you?" 

"Yes,  my  sister's." 

"Whom  did  she  marry?"  Then,  without  wait- 
ing for  an  answer,  she  smiled  again  mysterious- 
ly and  fleetingly.  "Do  come,  won't  you?"  Once 
again,  as  it  had  on  the  verandah  of  Mokhov's 
house  her  smile  stung  Mitka  like  a  nettle. 

He  watched  her  to  the  boat.  Boyarishkin 
pushed  off  clumsily  and  rowed  away,  while 
Liza  smiled  over  his  head  at  Mitka,  who  was 
still  toying  with  the  key,  and  nodded  farewell. 

When  the  boat  was  well  out,  Mitka  heard 
Boyarishkin  quietly  ask:  "Who  is  that  fellow?" 

"Just  an  acquaintance." 

"Not  an  affair  of  the  heart?" 

Mitka  did  not  catch  her  answer  above  the 
creak  of  the  rowlocks.  He  saw  Boyarishkin 
throw  himself  back  with  a  laugh,  but  could  not 
see  Liza's  face.  The  lilac  ribbon  on  her  hat, 
stirring  gently  in  the  breeze,  caressed  the  slope 

13—1933  193 


of  her  bare  shoulder  with  a  melting  softness 
that  teased  Mitka's  misty  glance. 

Mitka,  who  rarely  went  fishing  with  rod  and 
line,  had  never  prepared  for  the  occasion 
with  such  zeal  as  on  that  evening.  He  chopped 
some  dung  straw  and  boiled  up  the  millet  over 
a  fire  on  the  vegetable  patch,  then  sorted  out 
his  hooks,  renewing  the  lines  that  were  rotten. 

Mikhei,  who  was  watching  his  preparations, 
asked:  "Take  me  with  you,  Mitka.  You  won't 
be  able  to  manage  alone," 

"I'll  manage." 

Mikhei  sighed. 

"It's  a  long  time  since  we  went  out  together. 
I'd  just  like  the  feel  of  a  twenty-pounder  pull- 
ing on  the  line." 

Mitka  frowned  into  the  hot  column  of  steam 
rising  from  the  pot  and  said  nothing.  When 
he  had  finished  he  went  into  the  back  room. 
Grandfather  Grishaka  was  sitting  by  the  win- 
dow, with  round,  copper-rimmed  spectacles  on 
his  nose,  studying  the  Gospels. 

"Grandad!"  Mitka  said,  leaning  his  back 
against  the  door-frame. 

The  old  man  looked  at  him  over  his  specta- 
cles. 

"Eh?" 

"Wake  me  up  at  the  first  cock." 

"Where  are  you  off  to  so  early?" 

t94 


"Fishing." 

The  old  man  had  a  weakness  for  fish  but  he 
made  a  pretence  of  opposing  Mitka's  designs. 

"Your  father  said  the  hemp  must  be  beaten 
tomorrow.  There's  no  time  to  laze  about." 

Mitka  stirred  from  the  door  and  tried  strat- 
egy- 

"Oh,  all  right  then.  I  wanted  to  give  you  a 
treat  but  as  there's  the  hemp  to  be  done,  I  won't 

go." 

"Stop,  where  are  you  off  to?"  the  old  man 
took  alarm  and  pulled  off  his  spectacles.  "I'll 
speak  to  your  father  about  it,  you  can  go. 
Tomorrow's  Wednesday,  I  could  just  do  with  a 
bit  of  fish.  All  right,  I'll  wake  you  up.  Go  on, 
you  young  ass,  what  are  you  grinning  at?" 

At  midnight  the  old  man,  holding  up  his 
linen  trousers  with  one  hand  and  gripping  his 
stick  in  the  other,  floated  like  a  trembling  white 
shadow  across  the  yard  to  the  barn,  entered 
the  bam  and  jabbed  his  crutch  into  Mitka's 
sleeping  body.  In  the  barn  the  smell  of  newly- 
threshed  grain  and  mice  droppings  mingled 
with  the  stale  cobweb-choked  air  of  a  place  that 
is  never  lived  in. 

Mitka  was  sleeping  on  a  rug  by  the  corn-bin. 
Grishaka  poked  at  him  with  his  stick,  but  could 
not  rouse  him  for  some  time.  At  first  he  poked 
lightly,  whispering: 

13*  195 


"Mitka!  Mitka!  Hey,  Mitka!" 

But  Mitka  only  sighed  and  drew  his  legs  up. 
Grishaka  grew  more  ruthless  and  began  to  bore 
the  stick  into  Mitka's  stomach.  With  a  gasp 
Mitka  seized  the  end  of  the  stick  and  woke  up 
suddenly. 

"How  you  sleep!"  grumbled  the  old  man. 

"Quiet,  Grandad.  Don't  bumble,"  Mitka 
muttered  sleepily,  groping  for  his  boots. 

The  lad  made  his  way  to  the  square.  The  vil- 
lage cocks  were  already  crowing  for  the  second 
time.  As  he  passed  Father  Vissarion's  house  he 
heard  a  cock  flap  its  wings  in  the  hen-coop  and 
give  a  mighty  bellow  worthy  of  the  head  dea- 
con, while  the  hens  clucked  in  alarm, 

A  night  watchman  was  asleep  on  the  steps 
of  the  shop,  his  nose  tucked  into  the  sheepskin 
warmth  of  his  collar. 

Mitka  reached  Mokhov's  fence,  set  down  his 
fishing  tackle,  and  on  tiptoe,  so  as  not  to  dis- 
turb the  dogs,  crept  into  the  porch.  He  tried 
the  cold  iron  latch.  The  door  was  shut  fast.  He 
clambered  across  the  banister  of  the  verandah 
and  went  up  to  the  window.  It  was  half-closed. 
Through  the  black  gap  came  the  sweet  scent  of 
a  girl's  warm,  sleeping  body  and  the  mysteri- 
ously sweet  smell  of  perfume. 

"Yelizaveta  Sergeyevna!" 

Mitka  thought  he  had  called  very  loudly.  He 

196 


waited.  Silence.  "Suppose  I'm  at  the  wrong 
window!  Suppose  Mokhov's  asleep  in  there!  I'll 
be  for  it  then.  He'll  use  a  gun!" 

"Yelizaveta  Sergeyevna,  coming  fishing?" 

If  he'd  mistaken  the  window  there'd  be  some 
fish  caught  all  right! 

"Are  you  getting  up?"  he  said  in  irritation, 
and  thrust  his  head  through  the  window  open- 
ing. 

"Who's  there?"  a  low  startled  voice  sounded 
in  the  darkness. 

"It's  me,  Korshunov.  Coming  fishing?" 

"Oh!  Just  a  minute." 

There  was  a  sound  of  movement  inside.  Her 
warm,  sleepy  voice  seemed  to  smell  of  mint. 
Mitka  saw  something  white  and  rustling  mov- 
ing about  the  room. 

"I'd  rather  sleep  with  her  than  get  cold 
fishing,"  he  thought  vaguely  with  the  smell  of 
the  bedroom  in  his  nostrils. 

After  a  while  her  smiling  face,  framed  in  a 
white  kerchief,  appeared  at  the  window. 

"I'm  coming  out  this  way.  Give  me  your 
hand."  As  he  helped  her  down,  she  looked  close- 
ly into  his  eyes. 

"I  didn't  take  long,  did  I?" 

"It's  all  right,  we'll  be  in  time." 

They  went  down  to  the  Don.  She  rubbed  her 
sleep-swollen  eyes  with  a  pink  hand. 

197 


"I  was  sleeping  so  sweetly.  I  could  have  slept 
on.  It's  too  early  to  go  yet." 

"We'll  be  just  in  time." 

They  followed  the  first  lane  from  the  square 
leading  down  to  the  river.  During  the  night  the 
river  had  risen,  and  the  boat,  which  had  been 
left  high  and  dry  the  evening  before,  was  now 
rocking  on  the  water  a  little  way  out. 

"I'll  have  to  take  off  my  shoes,"  she  sighed, 
measuring  the  distance  to  the  boat  with  her 
eyes. 

"Let  me  carry  you,"  Mitka  proposed. 

"No,  I'd  better  take  my  shoes  off." 

"Carrying  you  would  be  easier." 

"I'd  rather  not,"  she  said,  with  embarrass- 
ment in  her  voice. 

Mitka  embraced  her  legs  above  the  knees 
with  his  left  arm,  and,  lifting  her  easily, 
splashed  through  the  water.  She  clutched  in- 
voluntarily at  the  finn,  dark  column  of  his  neck 
and  laughed  with  a  cooing  softness. 

If  Mitka  had  not  stumbled  over  a  stone  used 
by  the  village  women  when  washing  clothes, 
there  would  not  have  been  a  brief,  accidental 
kiss.  She  gasped  and  pressed  her  face  against 
Mitka's  hard  cracked  lips,  and  he  came  to  a 
halt  two  paces  away  from  the  boat.  The  water 
swirled  over  the  tops  of  his  boots  and  chilled 
his  feet. 

198 


Unfastening  the  boat,  he  pushed  it  off  and 
jumped  in.  He  rowed  standing.  The  water 
rustled  and  wept  under  the  stern.  The  boat 
gently  breasted  the  stream,  making  for  the 
opposite  bank.  The  fishing  rods  jumped  and 
clattered  at  the  bottom  of  the  boat. 

"Where  are  you  taking  me?"  she  asked, 
glancing  back. 

"To  the  other  side." 

The  keel  grated  on  the  sandy  shore.  Without 
asking  permission  he  picked  the  girl  up  in  his 
arms,  and  carried  her  into  a  clump  of  haw- 
thorn. She  bit  at  his  face,  scratched,  gave  one 
or  two  stifled  screams,  and  feeling  her  strength 
ebbing,  she  wept  angrily,  but  without  tears. 

They  returned  about  nine  o'clock.  The  sky 
was  wrapped  in  a  ruddy  yellow  haze.  A  strong 
breeze  danced  over  the  river,  maning  the  waves. 
The  boat  danced  over  the  waves,  and  the 
cold  frothy  spray  sprinkled  on  Liza's  pallid 
face  and  clung  to  her  lashes  and  the  strands  of 
her  hair.  She  wearily  closed  her  vacant  eyes, 
twisting  in  her  fingers  a  flower  that  had  fallen 
into  the  boat.  Mitka  rowed  without  looking  at 
her.  A  small  carp  and  a  bream  lay  goggle-eyed 
at  his  feet,  their  mouths  twisted  in  death;  Mit- 
ka's  face  wore  an  expression  of  mingled  guilt, 
content  and  anxiety. 

"I'll  take  you  to  Semyonov's  landing  stage. 

199 


It  will  be  nearer  for  you,"  he  told  her,  as  he 
turned  the  boat  into  the  stream. 

"All  right/'  she  whispered. 

Along  the  deserted  shore  the  dusty  wattle 
fences  pined  in  the  hot  wind,  drenching  the  air 
with  the  smell  of  burnt  brushwood.  The  heavy 
over-ripe  caps  of  the  sunflowers,  pecked  by 
sparrows,  drooped  low,  scattering  fluffy  seeds 
over  the  ground.  The  meadowland  was  emerald 
with  the  young  aftermath.  Colts  were  frisking 
about  in  the  distance;  and  the  hot  southerly 
wind  wafted  up  the  echoing  laughter  of  the 
bells  tied  round  their  necks. 

As  Liza  was  getting  out  of  the  boat  Mitka 
picked  up  a  fish  and  held  it  out  to  her. 

"Here,  take  the  catch." 

Her  lashes  flickered  in  alarm,  but  she  took 
the  fish. 

"Well,  I'm  going." 

Holding  the  fish  by  the  willow  twig  Mitka 
had  fixed  through  their  gills,  she  turned  miser- 
ably away.  Gone  were  her  recent  assurance  and 
gaiety,  left  behind  in  the  hawthorn  bushes. 

"Liza!" 

She  turned  round,  surprise  and  irritation  in 
her  frown. 

"Come  back  a  minute." 

And  when  she  came  closer  he  said,  annoyed 
at  his  own  embarrassment,  "We  were  a  bit  care- 

2Q0 


less.  Your  dress  at  the  back  . . .  there's  a  stain 
on  it.  It's  only  a  little  one. .  .  ." 

A  hot  flush  spread  over  her  face  and  neck. 
After  a  moment's  silence,  Mitka  advised:  "Go 
by  the  back  ways," 

"I'll  have  to  pass  through  the  square  in  any 
case.  ...  I  meant  to  put  my  black  skirt  on,"  she 
whispered,  looking  at  Mitka  with  regret  and 
sudden  hatred. 

"Let  me  green  it  a  bit  with  a  leaf,"  Mitka 
suggested  simply,  and  was  surprised  to  see  the 
tears  come  into  her  eyes. 

Like  the  rustling  whisper  of  a  summer  breeze 
the  news  flew  round  the  village.  "Mitka  Kor- 
shunov's  been  out  all  night  with  Sergei  Plato- 
novich's  daughter."  The  women  talked  about  it 
as  they  drove  out  the  cattle  to  join  the  village 
herd  in  the  morning,  as  they  stood  in  the  nar- 
row shade  of  the  well-sweeps  with  the  grey 
dust  swirling  round  them  and  water  dripping 
from  their  buckets,  or  as  they  beat  out  their 
washing  on  the  flat  stones  down  by  the  river. 

"Her  own  mother's  dead  you  know." 

"Her  father  never  has  a  minute  to  spare,  and 
her  stepmother  just  doesn't  trouble." 

"The  watchman  says  he  saw  a  man  tapping 
at  the  end  window  at  midnight.  He  thought  at 
first  it  was  someone  trying  to  break  in.  He  ran 
to  see  who  it  waS/  and  found  it  was  Mitka." 

201 


"The  girls  these  days,  I  don't  know  what 
they're  coming  to." 

"Mitka  told  my  Nikita  he's  going  to  marry 
her." 

"He'd  better  wipe  his  nose  first." 

"He  forced  her,  they  say." 

"Don't  you  believe  it. .  .  ." 

The  rumours  flowed  round  main  street  and 
back  street,  smearing  the  girl's  good  name,  as 
a  clean  gate  is  smeared  with  thick  tar. 

Finally  they  descended  on  the  greying  head 
of  Mokhov  himself  and  crushed  him  to  the 
ground.  For  two  days  he  went  neither  to  the 
shop  nor  to  the  mill.  His  servants,  who  lived 
downstairs,   came  to  him  only  at  dinner. 

On  the  third  day  Sergei  Platonovich  had  his 
dapple-grey  stallion  harnessed  to  his  droshki, 
and  drove  to  the  stanitsa,  bowing  remotely  to 
the  Cossacks  he  met  on  the  way.  The  droshki 
was  followed  by  a  highly-varnished  carriage, 
which  swished  out  of  the  yard,  drawn  by  a  pair 
of  prancing  black  horses.  Yemelyan  the  coach- 
man, sucking  his  pipe,  which  had  become 
permanently  attached  to  his  greying  beard, 
shook  out  the  blue  silk  of  the  reins  and  the  two 
black  horses  went  prancing  down  the  street. 
Liza  could  be  seen  sitting  pale-faced  behind 
Yemelyan's  craggy  back.  She  held  a  light  valise 
on  her  knees   and  was  smiling  sadly.  At  the 

202 


gate  she  waved  her  glove  to  Vladimir  and  her 
stepmother. 

Pantelei  Prokofyevich  happened  to  be  limp- 
ing out  of  the  shop  at  the  moment,  and  he 
stopped  to  ask  the  yardman  Nikita:  "Where's 
the  master's  daughter  going?" 

And  Nikita,  condescending  to  the  simple  hu- 
man weakness,  replied:  "To  Moscow,  to  study." 

The  next  day  an  incident  occurred  which  was 
long  the  subject  of  talk  down  by  the  river,  un- 
der the  shadow  of  the  well-sweeps,  and  when 
the  cattle  were  being  driven  out  to  graze.  Just 
before  nightfall  (the  village  herd  had  already 
returned  from  the  steppe)  Mitka  went  to  see 
Sergei  Platonovich.  He  had  waited  until  evening 
in  order  to  avoid  meeting  anyone,  for  he  came 
not  merely  to  make  a  friendly  call,  but  to  ask 
for  the  hand  of  Mokhov's  daughter,  Liza. 

He  had  met  her  perhaps  four  times,  not  more. 
At  the  last  meeting  the  conversation  had  taken 
the  following  course: 

"Liza,  will  you  marry  me?" 

"Nonsense!" 

"I  shall  care  for  you,  I'll  love  you.  We  have 
people  to  work  for  us,  you  shall  sit  at  the  win- 
dow and  read  your  books." 

"You're  a  fool!" 

Mitka  took  offence,  and  said  no  more.  That 
evening  he     went    home    early,    and    in     the 

203 


morning     he     announced     to    his     astonished 
father: 

"Father,  arrange  for  my  marriage." 

"Don't  be  a  fool." 

"Honestly,  Father,  I'm  not  joking." 

"In  a  hurry,  aren't  you?  Who're  you  smitten 
on-crazy  Marfa?" 

"Send  the  match-makers  to  Sergei  Platono- 
vich." 

Miron  Grigoryevich  carefully  set  down  the 
cobbling  tools  with  which  he  was  mending  har- 
ness, and  roared  with  laughter. 

"You're  in  a  funny  vein  today,  my  son." 

But  Mitka  stuck  to  his  guns,  and  his  father 
flared  up. 

"You  fool!  Sergei  Platonovich  has  a  capital 
of  over  a  hundred  thousand  rubles.  He's  a  mer- 
chant, and  what  are  you?  Clear  off,  or  I'll 
leather  you  with  this  strap." 

"We've  got  fourteen  pairs  of  bullocks,  and 
look  at  the  land  we  own.  Besides  he's  a  muzhik, 
and  we're  Cossacks." 

"Clear  off!"  Miron  said  curtly.  He  did  not  like 
long  discussions. 

Mitka  found  a  sympathetic  listener  only  in 
his  grandfather.  The  old  man  attempted  to  per- 
suade Miron  in  favour  of  his  son's  suit. 

"Miron!"  old  Grishaka  said.  "Why  don't  you 
agree?  As  the  boy's  taken  it  into  his  head. . , ." 

204 


"Father,  you're  a  great  baby,  God's  truth  you 
are!  Mitka's  silly  enough,  but  you're...." 

"Hold  your  tongue!"  Grishaka  rapped  his 
stick  on  the  floor.  "Aren't  we  good  enough  for 
them?  He  ought  to  take  it  as  an  honour  for  a 
Cossack's  son  to  wed  his  daughter.  He'll  give 
up,  and  gladly  too.  We're  known  all  over  the 
countryside.  We're  not  farm-hands,  we're  mas- 
ters. Go  and  ask  him,  Miron.  What's  stopping 
you?  Let  him  give  his  mill  as  the  dowry." 

Miron  snorted  and  went  out  into  the  yard.  So 
Mitka  decided  to  wait  until  evening  and  then 
go  to  Mokhov  himself.  He  knew  that  his  fa- 
ther's obstinacy  was  like  a  well-rooted  elm:  you 
might  bend  it,  but  you  could  never  break  it.  It 
was  not  worth  trying. 

He  went  whistling  as  far  as  Mokhov's  front 
door,  then  grew  timid.  He  hesitated  a  moment, 
and  finally  went  through  the  yard  to  the  side 
door.  On  the  steps  he  asked  the  maid  in  her 
crackling  starched  apron:  "Master  at  home?" 
"He's  drinking  his  tea.  Wait!" 
Mitka  sat  down  and  waited,  lit  a  cigarette, 
smoked  it,  and  crushed  the  end  on  the  floor. 
Mokhov  came  out,  brushing  crumbs  off  his 
waistcoat.  When  he  saw  Mitka  he  frowned,  but 
said:  "Come  in." 

Mitka  entered  Mokhov's  cool    private  room 
that  smelled  of  books  and  tobacco,  feeling  that 

205 


the  courage  with  which  he  had  been  charged 
so  far  had  been  sufficient  to  last  only  to  the 
merchant's  threshold.  The  merchant  went  to  his 
table,  and  swung  round  on  his  heels:  "Well?" 
Behind  his  back  his  fingers  scratched  at  the  top 
of  the  table. 

"I've  come  to  find  out  .  .  ."  Mitka  plunged 
into  the  cold  slime  of  Mokhov's  piercing  eyes 
and  shuddered.  "Perhaps  you'll  give  me  Liza?" 
Despair,  anger,  fear,  all  combined  to  bring  his 
face  out  in  perspiration,  fine  as  dew  during  a 
drought. 

Mokhov's  left  eyebrow  quivered,  and  his  up- 
per lip  writhed  back  from  the  gums.  He  stretched 
out  his  neck  and  leaned  all  his  body  forward: 

"What?  Wha-a-at?  You  scoundrel!  Get  out! 
I'll  have  you  before  the  ataman!  You  son  of  a 
bitch!" 

Encouraged  by  this  shout,  Mitka  watched  the 
grey-blue  blood  flooding  into  Mokhov's  cheeks. 

"Don't  take  it  as  an  insult.  I  only  wanted  to 
make  up  for  what  I've  done." 

Mokhov  rolled  his  bloodshot  eyes  and  threw 
a  massive  iron  ash-tray  at  Mitka' s  feet.  It  re- 
bounded and  struck  him  on  the  knee.  But  he 
stoically  bore  the  pain,  and  jerking  open  the 
door,  shouted,  baring  his  teeth  with  resentment 
and  pain: 

"As  you  like,  Sergei  Platonovich,  just  as  you 

206 


like,  but  I  meant  it.  .  .  .  Who  would  want  her 
now?  I  thought  I'd  cover  her  shame.  But  now 
. .  .  even  a  dog  won't  touch  a  gnawed  bone." 

Pressing  a  crumpled  handkerchief  to  his  lips, 
Mokhov  followed  on  Mitka's  heels.  He  barred 
the  way  to  the  main  door,  and  Mitka  ran  out 
into  the  yard.  Here  the  master  had  only  to  wink 
to  Yemelyan  the  coachman,  and  as  Mitka  was 
struggling  with  the  stout  latch  at  the  wicket- 
gate,  four  unleashed  hounds  tore  round  the  cor- 
ner of  the  barn.  Seeing  a  stranger,  they  bound- 
ed across  the  clean-swept  yard  straight  at  him. 

In  1910,  Sergei  Platonovich  had  brought  back 
a  pair  of  black  curly-haired  pups  from  the  fair 
at  Nizhny  Novgorod.  In  a  year  those  black, 
curly,  big-mouthed  pups  shot  up  like  yearling 
calves.  At  first  they  snapped  at  the  skirts  of 
the  women  who  passed  Mokhov's  yard,  then 
they  learned  to  pull  the  women  to  the  ground 
and  bite  their  legs,  and  it  was  only  when  they 
had  killed  Father  Pankraty's  calf  and  a  pair  of 
Atyopin's  hogs  that  Sergei  Platonovich  ordered 
them  to  be  chained  up.  Now  the  dogs  were  let 
loose  only  at  night,  and  once  every  spring  for 
the  mating. 

Before  Mitka  could  turn  round  the  foremost 
dog  was  up  at  his  shoulders  with  its  teeth  fas- 
tened into  his  jacket.  The  writhing  black  bodies 
bit  and  tore    at   him.    Mitka    fought    them    off 

207 


and  tried  to  keep  his  balance.  He  saw  Yeme- 
lyan,  his  pipe  scattering  sparks,  disappear  into 
the  kitchen,  and  heard  the  door  slam  behind 
him. 

By  the  steps,  leaning  against  a  drain-pipe, 
stood  Sergei  Platonovich,  his  hairy  white  fists 
clenched.  Swaying  and  staggering,  Mitka  tore 
open  the  gate  and  dragged  the  bunch  of  snarl- 
ing, hot-breathed  dogs  after  him  on  his  bleed- 
ing legs.  He  seized  one  by  the  throat  and  choked 
it,  and  passing  Cossacks  with  difficulty  beat 
off  the  others. 

Ill 

Natalya  fitted  well  into  the  Melekhov  house- 
hold. Although  he  was  rich  and  employed  la- 
bourers, her  father  had  brought  up  his  chil- 
dren to  work.  Hard-working  Natalya  won  the 
hearts  of  her  husband's  parents.  Ilyinichna,  who 
secretly  did  not  like  her  elder  clothes-loving 
daughter-in-law  Darya,  took  to  Natalya  from 
the  very  first. 

"Sleep  on,  sleep  on,  little  one!  What  are  you 
out  so  early  for?"  she  would  protest  kindly, 
bustling  about  the  kitchen  on  her  stout  legs. 
"Go  back  to  bed,  we'll  manage  without  you." 

And  Natalya  who  had  got  up  at  dawn  to  help 
in  the  kitchen  would  go  back  to  the  best  room 
to  complete  her  rest, 

208 


Even  Pantelei,  who  was  usually  strict  in  re- 
gard to  household  matters,  said  to  his  wife: 

"Listen,  wife,  don't  wake  Natalya.  She  works 
hard  enough  as  it  is.  She's  going  out  with 
Grisha  to  plough  today.  But  whip  up  that 
Darya.  She's  a  lazy  woman,  and  bad.  She 
paints  her  face  and  blacken^  her  brows,  the 
bitch." 

"Let  her  take  it  a  bit  easy,  the  first  year," 
sighed  Ilyinichna,  remembering  her  own  back- 
breaking  life, 

Grigory  had  begun  to  get  used  to  his  newly- 
married  state;  but  after  two  or  three  weeks  he 
realized  with  fear  and  chagrin  that  he  had  not 
completely  broken  with  Aksinya.  Something 
was  left  like  a  thorn  in  his  heart,  and  the  pain 
would  not  go  soon.  The  feeling  which,  in  the 
excitement  of  marriage,  he  had  dismissed  with 
a  careless  wave  of  the  hand  was  deep-rooted. 
He  thought  he  could  forget,  but  it  refused  to 
be  forgotten,  and  the  wound  bled.  Even  before 
the  wedding  Pyotr  had  asked  him  when  they 
were  threshing  together: 

"Grisha,  but  what  about  Aksinya?" 

"Well,  what  about  her?" 

"Won't  you  feel  sorry  to  throw  her  over?" 

"Someone  else  will  pick  her  up,"  Grigory  had 
said  with  a  laugh. 

"Well,  you  know  best,"  Pyotr  said,  biting  at 

14—1933  209 


the  chewed  tip  of  his  moustache,  "but  don't 
make  a  hash  of  your  marriage." 

"Love  grows  old  and  the  body  cold,"  Grigory 
replied  lightly. 

But  it  had  not  worked  out  like  that.  As  he 
dutifully  caressed  his  wife,  trying  to  inflame 
her  with  his  own  youthful  zest,  he  met  with 
only  coldness  and  an  embarrassed  submission 
from  her.  Natalya  shrank  from  bodily  delights; 
she  had  inherited  something  of  her  mother's 
slow,  unresponsive  blood,  and  as  he  recalled 
Aksinya's  passionate  fervour  Grigory  sighed: 
"Your  father  must  have  made  you  on  ice,  Na- 
talya. You're  too  chilly  by  half." 

And  when  he  met  Aksinya  she  would  smile 
with  a  vague  darkening  of  the  pupils  and  her 
words  clung  like  the  mud  at  the  bottom  of  a 
stream. 

"Hullo,  Grisha!  How's  love  with  your  young 
wife?" 

"All  right,"  Grigory  would  reply  evasively, 
and  escape  as  quickly  as  possible  from  her  ca- 
ressing glance. 

Stepan  had  evidently  made  up  his  quarrel 
with  his  wife.  He  visited  the  tavern  less  fre- 
quently, and  one  evening,  as  he  was  winnowing 
grain  on  the  threshing-floor,  he  suggested,  for 
the  first  time  since  the  beginning  of  the  trou- 
ble: "Let's  sing  a  song,  Aksinya!" 

210 


They  sat  down,  their  backs  against  a  heap  of 
threshed,  dusty  wheat.  Stepan  began  an  army 
song,  Aksinya  joined  in  with  her  full,  throaty 
voice.  They  sang  well  together,  as  they  had  in 
the  first  years  of  their  married  life,  when  they 
used  to  jog  back  from  the  fields  under  the  crim- 
son hem  of  the  sunset  glow  and  Stepan  would 
sit  on  the  load  and  sing  an  old  song,  as  long 
and  sad  as  the  wild  and  desolate  road  across 
the  steppe.  Aksinya  with  her  head  resting  on 
the  bulging  hoops  of  her  husband's  chest  would 
take  up  the  tune.  The  horses  would  pull  the 
creaking  wagon  and  the  shaft-bow  would  bob 
up  and  down.  And  from  afar  the  old  men  of  the 
village  would  listen  to  the  song. 

"She's  got  a  fine  voice,  that  wife  of  Stepan's." 

"Aye,  nice  singing." 

"And  what  a  voice  Stepan  has  got,  clear  as 
a  bell." 

And  as  they  sat  on  the  earthen  banks  round 
their  cottages  watching  the  dusty  purple  of  the 
sunset,  the  old  men  would  exchange  remarks 
across  the  street,  about  the  song,  where  it  came 
from,  and  about  those  who  had  loved  it. 

Grigory  heard  the  Astakhovs  singing,  and 
while  he  was  threshing  (the  two  threshing-floors 
adjoined)  he  could  see  Aksinya  as  self-assured 
as  before,  and  apparently  happy.  Or  so  it 
seemed  to  him. 

14*  211 


Stepan  was  not  on  speaking  terms  with  the 
Melekhovs.  He  worked  on  the  threshing-floor, 
swinging  his  great  sloping  shoulders,  occasion- 
ally making  a  jesting  remark  to  Aksinya.  And 
she  would  respond  with  a  smile,  her  black  eyes 
flashing.  Her  green  skirt  hovered  constantly 
before  Grigory's  eyes.  His  neck  was  continually 
being  twisted  by  a  strange  force  which  turned 
his  head  in  the  direction  of  Stepan's  yard.  He 
did  not  notice  that  Natalya,  who  was  helping 
Pantelei.  spread  out  the  sheaves  for  threshing, 
intercepted  every  involuntary  glance  with  her 
own  yearning,  jealous  gaze;  he  did  not  see 
Pyotr,  who  was  driving  the  horses  round  the 
threshing  circle,  wrinkling  his  nose  with  a  faint 
grin  as  he  watched  his  brother. 

The  earth  groaned  under  the  crushing  weight 
of  the  stone  rollers  and  with  the  muffled  rumble 
in  his  ears  Grigory  groped  hazily  in  his  mind 
and  failed  to  catch  the  scraps  of  thought  that 
slipped  elusively  out  of  range  of  his  conscious- 
ness. 

From  near  and  distant  threshing-floors  came 
the  sound  of  threshing:  the  shouts  of  drivers, 
the  whistle  of  knouts,  the  rattle  of  the  winnow- 
ing drums.  The  village,  fat  with  the  harvest, 
basked  in  the  September  warmth,  stretching 
along  the  Don  like  a  beaded  snake  across  a 
road.  In  every  farmyard  with  its  wattle  fence, 

212 


under  every  Cossack  roof,  each  brimming  bit- 
ter-sweet life  whirled  on,  separate  and  apart 
from  the  rest.  Old  Grishaka  had  taken  a  chill 
and  was  suffering  with  his  teeth;  Mokhov, 
crushed  by  his  shame,  clawed  his  beard,  weeping 
and  grinding  his  teeth  in  solitude;  Stepan 
nursed  his  hatred  for  Grigory  in  his  heart  and  his 
iron  fingers  tore  at  the  patchwork  quilt  in  his 
sleep;  Natalya  would  run  to  the  shed  and  threw 
herself  on  the  heap  of  cowdung  fuel,  shaking 
and  huddling  into  a  ball  as  she  wept  over  her 
desecrated  happiness;  Christonya,  who  had  sold 
a  calf  at  the  fair,  then  spent  the  money  on  drink, 
was  tortured  by  pangs  of  conscience;  Grigory 
sighed  with  insatiable  longing  and  renewed 
pain;  Aksinya,  as  she  caressed  her  husband, 
flooded  her  undying  hatred  for  him  with  tears. 
David  had  been  discharged  from  the  mill,  and 
sat  night  after  night  with  Knave  in  the  carters' 
shed,  while  Knave,  his  angry  eyes  flashing, 
would  declare: 

"Just  wait!  They'll  have  their  throats  cut  be- 
fore long.  One  revolution  wasn't  enough  for 
them.  Wait  till  we  have  another  1905,  then  we'll 
settle  scores.  We'll  settle  scores!"  he  shook  his 
scarred  finger  threateningly,  and  with  a  shrug 
adjusted  the  jacket  flung  across  his  shoulders. 

And  over  the  village  slipped  the  days,  pass 
ing  into  the  nights;  the  weeks  flowed  by,  the 

2tS 


months  crept  on,  the  wind  howled  over  the  hill, 
warning  of  bad  v/eather  to  come,  and,  glazed 
with  the  clear  greenish-blue  of  autumn,  the 
Don  flowed  on  indifferently  to  the  sea. 

IV 

One  Sunday  at  the  end  of  October  Fedot  Bo- 
dovskov  drove  to  the  stanitsa  on  business.  He 
took  with  him  four  braces  of  fattened  ducks  and 
sold  them  at  the  market;  he  bought  his  wife 
some  cotton  print,  and  was  on  the  point  of  driv- 
ing home  (with  one  foot  on  the  wheel  he  was 
tightening  the  hame  strap),  when  a  stran- 
ger, obviously  not  of  those  parts,  came  up  to 
him. 

"Good-afternoon,"  he  greeted  Fedot,  putting 
a  sunburnt  hand  to  the  edge  of  his  black  hat. 

"  'Afternoon,"  said  Fedot  and  paused  inquir- 
ingly, narrowing  his  Kalmyk  eyes. 

"Where  are  you  from?" 

"One  of  the  villages." 

"And  which  village  may  that  be?" 

"Tatarsky." 

The  stranger  drew  a  silver  cigarette-case  out 
of  his  pocket  and  offered  Fedot  a  cigarette. 

"Is  yours  a  large  village?" 

"No  thanks,  just  had  one.  Our  village?  Pret- 
ty big.  Three  hundred  families  or  thereabouts." 

214 


"Is  there  a  church  there?" 

""Of  course." 

"Any  blacksmiths  there?" 

"Aye,  there's  a  smithy." 

"Is  there  a  workshop  at  the  mill?" 

Fedot  fastened  the  rein  to  his  horse's  bit,  and 
looked  distrustfully  at  the  man's  black  hat  and 
the  furrows  in  the  broad  white  face,  fringed 
with  a  black  beard. 

"What  do  you  want  to  know  for?" 

"I'm  coming  to  live  at  your  village.  I've  just 
been  to  the  district  ataman.  Are  you  going  back 
empty?" 

"Aye." 

"Will  you  take  me  back  with  you?  I'm  not 
alone.  I  have  my  wife  with  me  and  a  couple  of 
boxes." 

"I  can  take  you." 

Having  agreed  about  the  price,  they  drove  to 
Froska  the  bun-maker's  where  his  passenger 
was  lodging,  collected  the  man's  thin,  blond 
wife,  put  the  boxes  in  the  back  and  set  out  on 
the  return  journey.  Clicking  his  tongue  and 
flicking  the  plaited  reins  over  the  horse's  backs, 
Fedot  twisted  his  angular  head  round  from  time 
to  time;  he  was  eaten  up  with  curiosity.  His 
passengers  sat  quietly  behind  him.  Fedot  first 
asked  for  a  cigarette,  then  he  inquired: 

"Where  are  you  from?" 

21^ 


"From  Rostov." 

"One  o'  them?" 

"What  did  you  say?" 

"Were  you  born  there?" 

"Er,  yes." 

Fedot  wrinkled  his  bronzed  cheeks  and 
peered  at  the  distant  clumps  of  steppe  grass.  The 
road  began  to  climb  and  half  a  verst  from  the 
road,  in  the  grey-brown  brushwood  on  top  of 
the  ridge  Fedot's  practised  eye  spotted  the 
scarcely  visible  movements  of  bustards'  heads. 

"Pity  I  haven't  got  a  gun,  or  Fd  be  out  after 
the  bustards.  There  they  go,"  he  sighed,  point- 
ing with  his  thumb. 

"I  don't  see  anything,"  his  passenger  replied, 
blinking  shortsightedly. 

Fedot  watched  the  bustards  flutter  into  a  gully 
and  twisted  himself  round  to  study  his  passen- 
gers more  closely.  The  man  was  of  average 
height,  but  thin;  his  close-set  eyes  had  a  sly 
twinkle  in  them.  He  smiled  frequently  as  he 
talked.  His  wife,  wrapped  in  a  knitted  shawl, 
was  dozing  and  Fedot  couldn't  see  her  face. 

"What  are  you  coming  to  live  in  our  village 
for?" 

"Fm  a  mechanic.  Fm  thinking  of  starting  a 
workshop.  I  can  do  carpentry  too." 

Fedot  stared  suspiciously  at  the  man's  big 
hands,  and  catching  his  gaze,  the  stranger  add- 

2W 


ed:  "I'm  also  an  agent  for  the  Singer  Sewing- 
Machine  Company." 

"What's  your  name?"  Fedot  asked. 

"Stockman." 

"So  you're  not  Russian,  then?" 

"Yes,  I'm  a  Russian.  But  my  grandfather  was 
a  Lett  by  birth." 

In  a  short  while  Fedot  had  learned  that  Osip 
Davydovich  Stockman  had  formerly  worked  at 
a  factory,  then  somev/here  in  the  Kuban,  then 
in  the  South-Eastern  Railway  workshops. 
And  a  great  number  of  other  facts  the  inquisi- 
tive Fedot  elicited  concerning  the  stranger's 
life. 

After  a  while  the  conversation  flagged.  Fedot 
watered  his  sweating  horse  at  a  wayside  spring, 
and  drowsy  with  the  journey  and  the  jolting  of 
the  cart,  he  began  to  doze.  It  was  another  five 
versts  to  the  village.  He  fastened  the  reins  to 
the  wagon  and  lay  back  comfortably.  But  he 
was  not  allowed  to  go  to  sleep. 

"How's  life  in  your  parts?"  Stockman  asked 
him  bouncing  and  swaying  with  the  motion  of 
the  cart. 

"Not  so  bad,  we  get  our  bread." 

"And  the  Cossacks  generally,  are  they  satis- 
fied with  life?" 

"Some  are,  some  aren't.  You  can't  please 
everybody," 

217 


"That's  true,"  the  man  assented,  and  went  on 
asking  his  tricky  probing  questions. 

"You  live  pretty  well,  you  say?" 

"Pretty  well." 

"The  annual  army  training  must  be  a  nui- 
sance? Eh?" 

"Army  training?  We're  used  to  it.  Nothing  to 
worry  about  when  you're  in  the  army." 

"But  it's  hard  on  you  Cossacks  to  have  to  sup- 
ply all  the  equipment." 

"Yes,  the  sons  of  swine!"  Fedot  said  with 
sudden  animation  and  glanced  sidelong  at  the 
woman.  She  averted  her  eyes. 

"Our  authorities  are  a  bad  lot.  .  .  .  When  I 
went  to  do  my  service  I  sold  my  bullocks  and 
bought  a  horse  and  they  rejected  him." 

"Rejected  him?"  Stockman  said  with  as- 
sumed amazement. 

"Right  out.  His  legs  were  no  good,  they  said. 
I  argued  with  them,  I  tried  everything.  'He's 
got  legs  like  a  prize  stallion,'  I  said,  'it's  just 
his  funny  way  of  stepping,  that's  all.'  But  no, 
they  wouldn't  pass  him.  It's  enough  to  ruin 
you!" 

The  conversation  went  on  briskly.  Fedot 
jumped  off  the  wagon  and  began  to  talk  freely  of 
the  village  life.  He  cursed  the  village  ataman 
for  his  unjust  division  of  the  meadowland,  and 
praised  the    way    things    were  run  in  Poland, 

218 


where  his  regiment  had  been  stationed.  Stock- 
man, casting  sharp  glances  at  Fedot  from  his 
narrowed  eyes,  smoked  mild  cigarettes  in  a 
ringed  bone  holder  and  smiled  frequently,  but 
the  frown  furrow  in  his  white  sloping  forehead 
stirred  slowly  and  heavily,  as  though  driven 
from  within  by  hidden  thoughts. 

They  reached  the  village  in  the  early  eve- 
ning. On  Fedot's  advice  Stockman  went  to  the 
widow  Lukeshka  and  rented  two  rooms  from 
her. 

"Who  is  that  you  brought  back  with  you?" 
Fedot's  neighbours  asked  him  as  he  drove  past 
their  gates. 

"An  agent." 

"What  kind  of  angel?" 

"You're  fools,  that's  what  you  are.  An  agent, 
I  said.  He  sells  machines.  He  gives  them  away 
free  to  the  handsome  ones,  but  to  such  as  you. 
Auntie  Marya,  he  sells  them." 

"Look  at  yourself,  you  devil.  Your  Kalmyk 
snout  is  ugly  enough  to  frighten  a  horse!" 

"Kalmyks  and  Tatars  come  first  in  the 
steppe,  so  don't  you  joke  about  them,"  Fedot 
parried. 

Mechanic  Stockman  lodged  at  the  cross-eyed, 
long-tongued  Lukeshka's.  And  the  night  had 
scarcely  passed  before  all  the  women's  tongues 
in  the  village  were  wagging. 

219 


"Have  you  heard  the   news,   neighbour?" 

"What  news?" 

"Fedot  the  Kalmyk  has  brought  a  foreigner 
down." 

"Really?" 

"So  help  me  God.  He  wears  a  hat  and  his 
name  is  Shtopel  or  Shtokal.  .  .  ." 

"He's  not  from  the  police?" 

"No,  he's  an  exciseman." 

"It's  all  lies,  my  dears.  He's  a  book-keeper, 
they  say,  just  like  Father  Pankraty's  son." 

"Pashka,  my  dove,  run  to  Lukeshka  and  ask 
her  quietly:  'Who's  that  living  with  you, 
auntie?'  " 

"Run  quickly,  child!" 

Next  day  Stockman  reported  to  the  village 
ataman. 

Fyodor  Manitskov,  who  was  in  his  third  year 
as  ataman,  turned  the  newcomer's  passport  over 
and  over,  then  handed  it  to  the  clerk,  who  also 
turned  it  over  and  over.  They  exchanged 
glances,  and  the  ataman,  once  a  sergeant-major, 
authoritatively  waved  his  hand. 

"You  can  stay." 

The  newcomer  bowed  and  left  the  room.  For 
a  week  he  did  not  put  his  nose  outside  Lukesh- 
ka's  house  keeping  like  a  suslik  to  his  burrow. 
He  could  be  heard  tapping  with  an  axe,  prepar- 
ing a  workshop    in  the  tumble-down    outdoor 

220 


kitchen.  The  women's  interest  in  him  died 
away;  only  the  children  spent  all  day  peeping 
over  the  fence  and  watching  the  stranger  with 
unabashed  curiosity. 

V 

Three  days  before  Intercession  Grigory  and 
his  wife  drove  out  to  the  steppe  to  plough.  Pan- 
telei  was  unwell;  he  leaned  heavily  on  his  stick 
and  wheezed  with  pain  as  he  stood  in  the  yard 
seeing  them  off. 

"Plough  up  the  two  strips  on  the  other  side 
of  the  common,  by  Red  Dell,  Grisha." 

"All  right.  What  about  the  one  up  by  Willow 
Bank?"  Grigory  asked  in  a  hoarse  whisper;  he 
had  caught  a  cold  while  fishing  and  had  a  cloth 
round  his  throat. 

"That  can  wait  till  after  the  holiday.  You'll 
have  enough  to  do  as  it  is,  so  don't  be  greedy. 
There  must  be  fifteen  acres  up  there." 

"Will  Pyotr  be  coming  to  help?" 

"He's  going  to  the  mill  with  Darya.  We  want 
to  get  our  milling  done  before  the  crowds  be- 
gin." 

As  Ilyinichna  put  some  freshly-baked  buns 
in  Natalya's  jacket  she  whispered:  "Perhaps 
you'll  take  Dunya  with  you,  to  lead  the  bull- 
ocks?" 

"Two  people  are  enough." 

221 


"All  right,  my  dear.  Christ  be  with  you." 

Arching  her  slender  figure  under  the  weight 
of  a  load  of  damp  washing,  Dunya  went  past 
on  her  way  to  the  Don  to  rinse  the  clothes.  As 
she  went  by  she  called  to  Natalya: 

"Natalya,  there's  lots  of  sorrel  in  Red  Dell. 
Pull  some  up  and  bring  it  home." 

"Now  then,  be  off  with  you,  chatterbox!" 
Pantelei  said  shaking  his  stick  at  Dunya. 

The  three  pairs  of  bullocks  dragged  the  up- 
turned plough  out  of  the  yard,  gouging  the 
drought-hardened  earth.  Grigory  kept  adjusting 
the  kerchief  bound  round  his  neck  as  he 
v/alked  along  at  the  roadside,  coughing.  Natalya 
walked  at  his  side,  a  bag  with  their  food  in  it 
swinging  on  her  back. 

A  crystal  stillness  enveloped  the  steppe.  Be- 
yond the  common,  on  the  other  side  of  the  hump- 
backed hill  the  earth  was  being  combed  with 
ploughs,  and  the  drivers  were  whistling;  but 
here  along  the  high-road  there  was  only  the 
blue-grey  of  stunted  wormwood,  the  roadside 
clover  nibbled  by  sheep,  and  the  ringing  glassy 
cool  of  the  sky  above,  criss-crossed  with  fly- 
ing threads  of  jewelled  gossamer. 

After  seeing  the  ploughmen  on  their  way, 
Pyotr  and  Darya  made  ready  to  drive  to  the 
mill.  Pyotr  winnowed  the  wheat  in  the  granary, 
Darya  sacked    it  and  carried    it    to    the    cart. 

222 


Pantelei  harnessed  the  horses  carefully  adjust- 
ing the  traces. 

"Going  to  be  long?" 

"Coming,"  Pyotr  answered  from  the  granary. 

When  they  arrived  at  the  mill  they  found 
the  yard  crowded  with  wagons.  The  scales  were 
surrounded  by  a  dense  throng.  Pyotr  threw  the 
reins  to  Darya  and  jumped  down  from  the  cart. 

"My  turn  soon?"  he  asked  Knave  the  scales- 
man. 

"You'll  get  there." 

"Who's  being  served  now?" 

"Number  thirty-eight." 

Pyotr  turned  to  fetch  his  sacks.  As  he  did  so 
he  heard  cursing  behind  him.  A  hoarse,  ill-tem- 
pered voice  barked:  "You  oversleep  yourself, 
and  then  you  want  to  go  out  of  your  turn.  Get 
away,  khokhol*,  or  I'll  give  you  one." 

Pyotr  recognized  the  voice  of  Horseshoe 
Yakov.  He  stopped  to  listen.  The  sound  of 
shouting  swelled  in  the  weighing-room.  Then 
came  the  sharp  smack  of  a  blow  and  an  elder- 
ly, bearded  Ukrainian  with  his  cap  crushed  on 
the  back  of  his  head  came  tumbling  out 
through  the  doorway. 

"What's  that  for?"  he  shouted,  holding  his 
cheek. 

*  Khokhol -a   derogatory   term    for    a    Ukrainian. 
223 


"I'll  wring  your  neck!" 

"But  look  here.  .  ,  ," 

"Mikifor,  help!" 

Horseshoe  Yakov,  a  spirited,  stocky  artil- 
leryman, who  had  earned  his  nickname  because 
of  the  horseshoe  marks  left  on  his  face  by  the 
kick  of  a  horse,  came  running  out  of  the  weigh- 
ing-room, rolling  up  his  sleeves.  A  tall  Ukrain- 
ian in  a  pink  shirt  struck  hard  at  him  from  be- 
hind. But  Yakov  stayed  on  his  feet. 

"Brothers,  they're  beating  up  the  Cossacks!" 
he  cried. 

Cossacks  and  Ukrainians,  who  were  at  the 
mill  in  large  numbers,  came  running  from  all 
sides  into  the  wagon-filled  yard.  A  fight  began 
round  the  main  entrance.  The  door  gave  way 
under  the  pressure  of  the  struggling  bodies. 
Pyotr  threw  down  his  sack  and  with  a  grunt  ran 
lightly  towards  the  melee.  Standing  up  on  the 
cart,  Darya  saw  him  press  into  the  middle  of 
the  crowd,  knocking  the  others  aside.  She 
groaned  as  she  saw  him  carried  to  the  mill  wall, 
flung  down  and  trampled  underfoot. 

Mitka  Korshunov  came  skipping  round  the 
corner  from  the  machine-room,  brandishing  an 
iron  bar.  The  same  Ukrainian  who  had  struck 
at  Yakov  from  behind  burst  out  of  the  strug- 
gling crowd,  a  torn  pink  sleeve  fluttering  out 
behind  him  like  a  bird's  broken  wing.  Bent  dou- 

224 


ble,  his  hands  touching  the  ground,  he  ran  to 
the  nearest  cart  and  pulled  out  a  shaft  as  if  it 
were  a  match-stick.  Hoarse  cries  rang  out  over 
the  yard.  A  crunching  sound.  Blows.  Groaning. 
A  steady  roar  of  shouting.  The  three  Shamil 
brothers  came  running  out  of  their  house.  One- 
armed  Alexei  caught  his  feet  in  a  pair  of  reins 
left  lying  on  the  ground  and  sprawled  at  the 
gate.  He  jumped  up  and  went  bounding  across 
the  lined-up  cart-shafts,  pressing  his  armless 
left  sleeve  to  his  stomach.  His  brother  Martin 
bent  down  to  tuck  in  the  trouser  leg,  which  had 
come  out  of  his  white  sock.  The  shouting  at 
the  mill  rose  to  a  crescendo.  Somebody  let  out 
a  cry  that  floated  high  over  the  mill  roof 
like  a  wind-blown  thread  of  cobweb,  and 
Martin  straightened  up  and  dashed  after  his 
brothers. 

Darya  stood  watching  from  the  cart,  panting 
and  wringing  her  hands.  Around  her,  women 
were  squealing  and  wailing,  horses  pricked  up 
their  ears  restlessly,  bullocks  bellowed  and 
pressed  against  the  carts.  Pursing  his  lips  Mo- 
khov  stalked  past  pale-faced,  his  belly  bobbing  up 
and  down  like  an  egg  under  his  waistcoat.  Da- 
rya saw  the  Ukrainian  with  the  tattered  shirt 
cut  Mitka  Korshunov  down  with  the  shaft,  the 
next  moment  he  himself  was  sent  headlong  by 
one-armed  Alexei's  iron  fist.  Scenes  from  the 

15—1933  225 


fight  passed  before  Darya's  eyes  like  scraps  of 
coloured  rag.  Without  surprise  she  saw  Mitka, 
on  his  knees,  sweep  Mokhov's  legs  from  un- 
der him  with  the  iron  bar.  Mokhov  threw  out 
his  arms  and  crawled  like  a  crab  to  the  weigh- 
ing-shed, there  to  be  kicked  and  trodden  under- 
foot. Darya  laughed  hysterically,  the  black 
arches  of  her  painted  brows  cracked  with  her 
laughter.  But  she  stopped  abruptly  as  she  saw 
Pyotr;  swaying,  he  had  made  his  way  out  of  the 
heaving,  yelling  mob,  and  was  lying  under  a 
cart,  spitting  blood.  Darya  ran  to  him  with  a 
shriek.  Cossacks  came  hurrying  from  the  vil- 
lage with  stakes;  one  of  them  flourished  a  crow- 
bar. The  fighting  was  taking  on  fantastic  pro- 
portions. It  was  no  mere  tavern  brawl  or  Shrove- 
tide fisticuffs  between  villages.  At  the  door  of 
the  weighing-shed  a  young  Ukrainian  lay  with 
a  broken  head  in  a  pool  of  blood;  bloody 
strands  of  hair  fell  over  his  face.  It  looked  as 
though  he  was  departing  his  pleasant  life. 

Herded  together  like  sheep,  the  Ukrainians 
were  slowly  being  driven  towards  the  unload- 
ing-shed.  Things  would  have  taken  a  bad  turn, 
had  not  an  old  Ukrainian  had  an  inspiration. 
Darting  into  the  shed,  he  pulled  a  flaming  brand 
out  of  the  furnace  and  ran  towards  the  shed 
where  the  milled  grain  was  stored:  a  thousand 
poods  and  more  of  flour.  Smoke  streamed  over 

226 


his  shoulder  like  muslin  and  sparks,  daylight- 
dimmed,  scattered  about. 

"I'll  set  it  afire!"  he  screamed,  raising  the 
crackling  brand  towards  the  thatched  roof. 

The  Cossacks  wavered  and  came  to  a  halt.  A 
dry,  blustering  wind  was  blowing  from  the 
east,  carrying  the  smoke  away  from  the  roof 
of  the  shed  towards  the  group  of  Ukrainians. 
One  goodly  spark  in  the  dry  rush  thatch,  and 
the  whole  village  would  go  up  in  flames. 

A  low  murmur  arose  from  the  Cossacks.  Some 
of  them  began  to  back  away  towards  the  mill, 
while  the  Ukrainian,  waving  the  brand  above 
his  head  and  scattering  fiery  rain,  shouted: 

"I'll  burn  it!  I'll  burn  it!  Out  of  the  yard!" 

With  fresh  red-blue  bruises  on  his  scarred 
face  Horseshoe  Yakov,  the  man  who  had  start- 
ed the  fight,  was  the  first  to  leave  the  yard.  The 
other  Cossacks  streamed  hurriedly  after  him. 
Throwing  their  sacks  hastily  on  to  their  wagons, 
the  Ukrainians  harnessed  their  horses,  then, 
standing  up  in  their  wagons,  waving  the  ends 
of  the  leather  reins  around  their  heads,  and 
whipping  up  their  horses  frantically,  they  tore 
out  of  the  yard  and  away  from  the  village. 

One-armed  Alexei  stood  in  the  middle  of  the 
yard,  his  empty  knotted  sleeve  jerking  on  his 
hard  flat  belly,  his  eye  and  cheek  twitching  as 
usual. 

15*  227 


"To  horse,  Cossacks!" 

"After  them!" 

"They'll  not  go  far." 

Mitka  Korshunov,  the  worse  for  wear,  made 
as  if  to  dash  out  of  the  yard.  A  fresh  ripple  of 
disturbance  passed  over  the  crowd  of  Cossacks 
round  the  mill.  But  at  that  moment  an  unfamil- 
iar figure  in  a  black  hat  appeared  from  the 
engine  room  and  approached  the  group  with 
hasty  steps;  his  piercing  eyes  narrowed  into 
slits  darted  over  the  crowd  as  he  raised  his  hand 
and  shouted: 

"Stop!" 

"Who  are  you?"  Yakov  demanded,  scowling. 

"Where'd  you  spring  from?" 

"Bash  him!" 

"Stop,  villagers!" 

"Who  are  you  calling  villagers,  you  bob- 
tail?" 

"Muzhik.  Give  him  one,  Yakov!" 

"The  dirty  bumpkin!" 

"That's  right,  black  his  eyes  for  him!" 

The  man  smiled  diffidently,  but  without  a 
sign  of  fear.  He  took  off  his  hat  and  wiped  his 
brow  with  a  gesture  of  complete  simplicity; 
his  smile  was  utterly  disarming. 

"What's  the  matter?"  he  asked,  waving  his 
hat  at  the  blood  by  the  door  of  the  weighing- 
shed. 

228 


"We've  been  beating  up  the  khokhols,"  one- 
armed  Alexei  replied  peaceably,  eye  and  cheek 
twitching. 

"But  what  for?" 

"They  wanted  to  go  out  of  turn/'  Yakov  ex- 
plained, stepping  forward  and  wiping  a  clot  of 
blood  from  his  nose  with  a  sweep  of  the  arm. 

"We  gave  'em  something  to  remember  us  by." 

"Pity  we  didn't  go  after  them.  .  . .  Nothing  to 
burn  in  the  steppe." 

"We  got  scared,  he  wouldn't  have  dared  set 
fire  to  it." 

"He'd  have  done  it  all  right,  he  was  desper- 
ate." 

"The  khokhols  are  a  mighty  bad-tempered 
lot,"  Afonka  Ozerov  said  with  a   grin. 

The  m.an  waved  his  hat  in  Ozerov's  direction. 
"And  who  are  you?" 

Ozerov  spat  contemptuously  through  his 
widely-spaced  teeth,  and,  watching  the  flight  of 
the  spittle,  planted  his  feet  apart. 

"I'm  Cossack.  But  you  .  .  .  what  are    you,  a 

gypsy?" 

"You  and  I  are  both  Russians." 

"You're  lying,"  Afonka  declared  deliberately. 

"The  Cossacks  are  descended  from  the  Rus- 
sians. Do  you  know  that?" 

"And  I  tell  you  the  Cossacks  are  the  sons  of 
Cossacks." 

229 


"Long  ago,"  the  man  explained,  "serfs  ran 
away  from  the  landowners  and  settled  along  the 
Don,  They  came  to  be  known  as  Cossacks." 

"Go  your  own  way,  man!"  Alexei  said  with 
restrained  anger,  clenching  his  ■  heavy  fist  and 
blinking  hard. 

"The  swine  wants  to  make  muzhiks  out  of  us ! 
Who  is  he?" 

"He's  the  new  fellow  living  with  cross-eyed 
Lukeshka,"   another  explained. 

But  the  moment  for  pursuit  of  the  Ukrainians 
was  past.  The  Cossacks  dispersed,  animatedly 
discussing  the  fight. 

That  night,  in  the  steppe  some  eight  versts 
from  the  village,  as  Grigory  wrapped  himself 
in  his  thick  prickly  sheepskin,  he  said  wistfully 
to  Natalya: 

"You're  a  stranger,  somehow!  You're  like  that 
moon,  you  neither  chill  a  man,  nor  warm  him. 
I  don't  love  you,  Natalya;  you  mustn't  be  an- 
gry, I  didn't  want  to  say  anything  about  it,  but 
there  it  is;  we  can't  go  on  like  this.  I'm  sorry 
for  you;  it  looked  as  if  we  were  coming  closer 
lately,  but  I  can't  feel  anything  in  my  heart. 
It's  just  empty.  Like  the  steppe  tonight." 

Natalya  stared  up  at  the  inaccessible  starry 
pastures,  at  the  shadowy,  ghost-like  cloak  of 
the  clouds  floating  above  her,  and  was  silent. 

230 


From  somewhere  in  the  bluish-black  wilderness 
above  a  belated  flight  of  cranes  called  to  each 
other  with  voices  like  little  silver  bells. 

The  withered  grass  had  a  sad,  dead  smell 
about  it.  On  a  hillock  flickered  the  ruddy  glow 
of  a  ploughman's  camp-fire. 

Grigory  awoke  just  before  dawn.  A  three- 
inch  layer  of  snow  covered  his  sheepskin.  The 
steppe  was  hidden  beneath  the  shimmering,  vir- 
ginal blue  of  the  fresh  fall;  the  clearly-marked 
tracks  of  a  hare  that  had  lost  its  way  on  the 
first  snow  ran  close  by  the  spot  where  he  lay. 

VI 

For  many  years  past,  if  a  Cossack  travelled 
alone  along  the  road  to  Millerovo  and  fell  in 
with  Ukrainians  (the  Ukrainian  villages  began 
at  Lower  Yablonovsky  and  stretched  for  seven- 
ty-five versts,  as  far  as  Millerovo),  he  had  been 
obliged  to  yield  them  the  road,  or  they  would 
set  about  him.  So  the  Cossacks  were  in  the 
habit  of  driving  to  the  railway  station  in 
groups,  and  then  they  were  not  afraid  of  fall- 
ing in  with  Ukrainians  out  in  the  steppe  and 
exchanging  invective: 

"Hey,  khokhol!  Give  us  the  road!  Think  you 
can  live  on  the  Cossacks'  land,  you  swine,  and 
not  let  them  pass!" 

231 


The  Ukrainians,  who  had  to  cart  their  grain 
to  the  elevator  at  Paramonovo  on  the  Don,  were 
not  to  be  envied  either.  Fights  would  break  out 
without  cause,  simply  because  they  were  "kho- 
khols,"  and  once  a  man  was  a  "khokhol,"  he  had 
to  be  beaten  up. 

Many  centuries  ago  a  diligent  hand  had  sown 
the  seeds  of  caste  hatred  in  the  Cossack  land 
and  cultivated  them  with  care,  and  the  seed  had 
yielded  rich  fruit.  The  earth  flowed  with  the 
blood  shed  in  these  brawls  between  Cossack 
and  newcomer  from  the  Ukraine  and  Russia. 

Some  two  weeks  after  the  battle  of  the  mill 
a  district  police  officer  and  an  inspector  arrived 
in  the  village.  Stockman  was  the  first  to  be  ex- 
amined. Rummaging  in  his  brief  case,  the  inspec- 
tor, a  young  official  from  the  Cossack  nobility, 
asked  him:  "Where  were  you  living  before  you 
came  here?" 

"At  Rostov." 

"What  were  you  imprisoned  for  in  1907?" 

Stockman's  eyes  glided  over  the  inspector's 
brief  case  and  his  bowed  head  with  its  scurfy 
side  parting. 

"For  disturbances." 

"Hm!  Where  were  you  working  then?" 

"At   the  railway   workshops," 

"What  as?" 

"Mechanic." 

232 


"You're  not  a  Jew,  are  you?  Or  a  converted 
one?" 

"No.  I  think " 

"I'm  not  interested  in  what  you  think.  Have 
you  been  in  exile?" 

"Yes,  I  have." 

The  inspector  raised  his  head,  and  bit  his 
clean-shaven,  pimply  lips. 

"I  advise  you  to  clear  out  of  this  district,"  he 
said,  adding  to  himself,  "and  I'll  see  to  it  that 
you  do." 

"Why,  inspector?" 

The  answer  was  another  question. 

"What  did  you  talk  to  the  Cossacks  about  on 
the  day  of  the  fight  at  the  mill?" 

"Well.  .  .  ." 

"All  right,  you  can  go." 

Stockman  went  out  on  to  the  verandah  of 
Mokhov's  house  (the  authorities  always  made 
the  merchant's  house  their  headquarters)  and 
glanced  back  at  the  painted  double  doors  with 
a  shrug. 

VII 

Winter  came  on  slowly.  After  Intercession 
the  snow  melted  and  the  herds  were  driven 
out  to  pasture  again.  For  a  week  a  south  wind 
blew,  warming  the  earth;  a  late  stunted  green 
gave  a  last  bright  gleam  in  the  steppe.  The  thaw 

233 


lasted  until  St.  Michael's  Day,  then  the  frost 
returned  and  heavy  snow  fell,  and  the  vegetable 
patches  by  the  Don,  where  the  snow  had  drift- 
ed to  the  top  of  the  fences,  were  criss-crossed 
with  the  marks  of  hares'  feet.  The  streets  were 
deserted. 

The  smoke  of  dung  fuel  hung  low  over  the 
village,  and  rooks  pecked  about  on  the  heaps 
of  ash  scattered  by  the  roadside.  The  smooth 
sledge-track  wound  in  a  faded  grey-blue  rib- 
bon through  the  village. 

A  village  assembly  was  to  be  held  to  arrange 
for  the  allotment  and  cutting  of  brushwood.  The 
Cossacks  crowded  round  the  steps  of  the  vil- 
lage administration  in  their  sheepskins  and 
greatcoats,  until  the  cold  drove  them  inside.  Be- 
hind a  table,  beside  the  ataman  and  clerk,  the 
respected  village  elders  with  their  silvery  beards 
were  gathered;  the  younger  Cossacks  with 
beards  of  various  colours  and  those  with  no 
beard  at  all  stood  round  in  groups  and  muttered 
to  one  another  out  of  the  warmth  of  their  coat 
collars.  The  clerk  covered  sheet  after  sheet  of  pa- 
per with  close  writing,  while  the  ataman 
watched  over  his  shoulder,  and  a  restrained  hum 
filled  the  chilly  room, 

"The  hay  this  year.  . .  ," 

"Aye,  the  meadow  hay  is  good,  but  the 
steppe  hay  is  all  clover," 

234 


"In  the  old  days  they'd  be  grazing  in  the 
steppe  till  Christmas." 

"That  was  all  right  for  the  Kalmyks." 

A  throaty  cough. 

"The  ataman's  getting  a  neck  like  a  wolf's 
on  him.  So  fat  he  can't  turn  his  head." 

"Fed  himself  up  like  a  pig,  the  devil!" 

"Hullo,  Grandpa,  trying  to  scare  the  winter 
away?  What  a  sheepskin  you've  got  on!" 

"Time  for  the  gypsy  to  sell  his  coat  soon." 

"Did  ye  hear  of  the  gypsy  lad  who  spent  the 
night  in  the  steppe  and  hadn't  anything  to  cover 
himself  with  except  a  fishing  net?  When  the  cold 
started  creeping  round  his  guts,  he  wakes  up, 
pushes  his  finger  through  a  loop  in  the  net  and 
says  to  his  mother:  'So  that's  where  the 
draught's  coming  from.  I  thought  it  was  chilly.'  " 

"I  fear  we'll  have  some  slippery  days  soon." 

"Better  get  the  oxen  shod." 

"I've  been  cutting  the  willows  down  in  Devil's 
gully.  Good  stuff  there." 

"Button  your  fly,  Zakhar.  If  you  get  frost- 
bite, your  woman'll  turn  you  out  of  the  house," 

"What's  this  I  hear  about  you  taking  over 
one  of  the  common  bulls,  Avdeyich?" 

"I  decided  not  to.  That  Parasha  woman's 
going  to  take  care  of  it.  I'm  a  widow,  she  says, 
the  more  the  merrier.  All  right,  I  says,  it  may 
give  you  an  addition  to  the  family,  , , ." 

235 


"Haw-haw-haw!" 

"Now,  elders!  What  about  the  wood-cutting? 
Quiet  there!" 

"Yes,  I  says,  if  you  get  an  addition,  you'll 
need  a  godfather." 

"A  little  quieter,  please." 

The  meeting  began.  Toying  with  his  rod  of 
office,  the  ataman  called  out  the  names,  pluck- 
ing icicles  out  of  his  beard  with  his  little  finger. 
Now  and  then  the  door  slammed  at  the  back  of 
the  room  and  people  squeezed  in  amid  clouds 
of  cold  air. 

"You  can't  fix  the  wood-cutting  for  Thurs- 
day!" Ivan  Tomilin  attempted  to  shout  down 
the  ataman  and  rubbed  his  purple  ears,  cock- 
ing his  head  in  its  blue  artillery  cap  on  one 
side. 

"Why  not?" 

"You'll  rub  your  ears  off,  gunner!"  somebody 
called  out. 

"We'll  sew  on  a  pair  of  bull's  ears  for  him." 

"On  Thursday  half  the  village  will  be  going 
out  to  bring  in  hay.  A  fine  way  to  arrange 
things.  .  ,  ." 

"You  can  leave  that  till  Sunday!" 

"Elders!" 

"What  now!" 

"Good  luck  to  him!" 

A  howl  of  derision  arose  from  the  assembly. 

23& 


Old  Matvei  Kashulin  leaned  across  the  rick- 
ety table  and,  pointing  his  smooth  ash  stick 
at  Tomilin,  croaked  furiously. 

"The  hay  can  wait!  It's  for  the  community  to 
say.  Ye're  always  agin  everybody  else.  Ye're 
a  young  fool,  my  lad!  And  that's  that!" 

"You've  got  no  brains  to  boast  about,  any- 
way .  .  ."  one-armed  Alexei  joined  in,  his  disfig- 
ured cheek  twitching.  For  six  years  he  had 
been  quarreling  with  old  Kashulin  over  a  strip 
of  land.  Alexei  beat  up  the  old  man  every 
spring,  although  the  strip  that  Kashulin  had 
grabbed  was  not  big  enough  to  swing  a  cat  in 
anyway. 

"Shut  up,  jelly-face!" 

"Pity  you're  out  of  my  reach,  or  I'd  bloody 
your  nose  for  you,"  Alexei  threatened, 
"Why,  you  one-armed  twitcher.  .  .!" 
"Now  then,   enough  of  this  bickering.  ,  .  ." 
"Go  outside  if  you  want  to  try  your  strength." 
"Chuck  it,  Alexei,  look  how  the  old  fellow's 
bristling  up,  he'll  lose  his  hat  in  a  minute." 
"Put  'em  in  the  cooler  if  they  won't  behave." 
The  table  groaned  as  the  ataman  brought  his 
heavy  fist  down  on  it  with  a  crash. 

"I'll  call  the  watchman  in  in  a  moment,  if 
there  isn't  silence."  When  order  was  restored, 
he  added:  "Wood-cutting  will  begin  on  Thurs- 
day at  dawn." 

237 


"Well,  what  do  you  say,  elders?" 

"Good  luck  to  it!" 

"God  grant  it!" 

"They  don't  listen  much  to  the  old  folk  now- 
adays!" 

"They'll  listen  all  right.  Do  they  think  they 
can  do  what  they  like?  My  Alexander,  when  I 
gave  him  his  portion,  he  wanted  to  start  a  fight 
over  it,  laid  hands  on  me,  he  did.  I  put  him  in 
his  place  though.  'I'll  go  to  the  ataman  this 
minute,'  I  says,  'and  have  you  thrashed,  .  . .' 
That  cooled  him  off  all  right.  . .  ." 

"And  one  other  thing,  elders.  I've  received  an 
order  from  the  district  ataman."  The  village 
ataman  raised  his  voice  and  twisted  his  neck; 
the  stiff  collar  of  his  uniform  was  cutting  into 
his  chin,  "Next  Saturday  the  youngsters  are  to 
go  to  be  sworn  in  at  the  district  ataman's  of- 
fice. They  are  to  be  there  by  the  afternoon." 

Pantelei  Prokofyevich  was  standing  by  the 
window  nearest  the  door,  holding  up  his  lame 
leg  like  a  crane.  At  his  side  Miron  Grigorye- 
vich  was  sitting  on  the  window-sill,  smiling  into 
his  ruddy  beard.  His  short  fair  eye-lashes  were 
fluffed  with  hoar-frost,  his  big  brown  freckles 
had  turned  grey  in  the  cold.  The  younger  Cos- 
sacks were  crowded  close  by,  winking  and  smil- 
ing at  one  another.  In  the  middle  of  their 
group,  his  blue-topped  quardsman's  cap  thrust 

238 


back  on  his  smooth  bald  head,  his  unageing 
face  everlastingly  blushing  like  a  ruddy  winter 
apple,  stood  Avdeyich  Sinilin, 

Avdeyich  had  served  in  the  Ataman's  Life- 
guards, and  had  come  back  with  the  nick- 
name "Braggart."  He  had  been  one  of  the  first  in 
the  village  to  be  assigned  to  the  Ataman's  Reg- 
iment. He  had  always  been  a  little  queer  in 
the  head,  but  on  active  service  something  very 
strange  had  happened  to  him.  From  the  very 
first  day  of  his  return  he  had  begun  to  tell  as- 
tonishing stories  of  service  at  the  court  and  his 
extraordinary  adventures  in  St.  Petersburg. 
His  astounded  listeners  at  first  believed  him, 
drinking  it  all  in  with  gaping  mouths,  but  then 
they  discovered  that  Avdeyich  was  the  biggest 
liar  the  village  had  ever  produced,  and  they 
openly  laughed  at  him.  But  he  was  not  to  be 
abashed  (although  he  was  always  so  red  in  the 
face  you  could  never  tell  if  he  was  blushing), 
and  did  not  give  up  his  lying.  As  he  grew  older 
he  began  to  get  annoyed  when  caught  out  in  a 
lie,  and  would  resort  to  his  fists;  but  if  his  lis- 
teners only  laughed  and  said  nothing  he  grew 
more  and  more  expansive  in  his  story-telling. 

As  far  as  his  farming  was  concerned  he  was 
a  practical  and  hard-working  Cossack,  in  every- 
thing he  acted  sensibly,  sometimes  cunningly, 
but  when  the  subject  turned  to  his  service  in 

239 


the  Lifeguards-everyone  simply  threw  up  their 
hands  and  doubled  up  with  laughter. 

Avdeyich  stood  in  the  middle  of  the  room, 
rocking  on  his  heels.  Glancing  round  the  as- 
sembled Cossacks,  he  observed  in  his  ponder- 
ous, bass  voice: 

"Speaking  of  service,  these  days  the  Cossacks 
aren't  at  all  what  they  were.  They're  just 
shrimps,  no  size  at  all.  You  could  crack  any  one 
of  'em  in  half  just  by  sneezing  at  him.  But .  . .'' 
and  he  smiled  contemptuously,  "I  saw  some 
Cossack  skeletons  once!  Ah!  They  were  Cos- 
sacks in  those  days!" 

"Where  did  you  dig  the  skeletons  up,  Av- 
deyich?" smooth-faced  Anikushka  asked, 
nudging  his  neighbour. 

"Don't  start  telling  any  of  your  lies,  Avdey- 
ich, with  the  Holy  Day  so  near,"  Pantelei  said, 
wrinkling  up  his  nose  and  tugging  his  ear-ring. 
He  did  not  like  Avdeyich's  bragging  habits. 

"It  isn't  in  my  nature  to  lie,  brother,"  Avdey- 
ich replied  firmly,  and  stared  in  astonishment 
at  Anikushka,  who  was  shaking  as  though  with 
fever.  "I  saw  these  skeletons  when  we  were 
building  a  house  for  my  brother-in-law.  As  we 
were  digging  the  foundation  we  came  to  a 
grave.  So  down  here  by  the  Don,  next  the 
church  there  must  have  been  a  cemetery  in  the 
old  days," 

240 


"Well,  what  about  the  skeletons?"  Pantelei 
asked  impatiently,  getting  ready  to  go, 

"Arms-that  long."  Avdeyich  said  extending 
both  his  rake-like  arms.  "Head  as  big  as  a  caul- 
dron-true as  I  live!" 

"You'd  better  tell  the  youngsters  how  you 
caught  a  robber  in  St.  Petersburg,"  Miron  sug- 
gested, as  he  rose  from  the  window-sill. 

"There's  nothing  really  to  tell,"  Avdeyich  re- 
plied, affected  by  a  sudden  attack  of  modesty 

"Tell  us,  tell  us,  Avdeyich!" 

"Well,  it  was  like  this,"  Avdeyich  cleared 
his  throat  and  drew  his  tobacco  pouch  out  of 
his  trouser  pocket.  He  replaced  the  two  copper 
coins  that  had  dropped  out  of  the  pouch, 
poured  a  pinch  of  tobacco  on  to  his  palm,  and 
ran  a  beaming  eye  over  his  audience.  "Some  vil- 
lain had  escaped  from  prison.  They  looked  for 
him  all  over  the  place,  but  do  you  think  they 
could  find  him?  They  just  couldn't.  All  the  au- 
thorities were  beaten. 

"Well,  one  night  the  officer  of  the  guard  calls 
me  to  him:  'Go  into  the  imperial  palace,'  he 
says.  'His  Imperial  Majesty  wants  to  see  you.' 
So  in  I  went.  I  stood  to  attention,  but  he  claps 
me  on  the  shoulder  and  says:  'Listen!'  he  says, 
'Ivan  Avdeyich,  the  biggest  villain  in  our  king- 
dom has  done  a  bunk.  Find  him,  even  if  you 
have  to  stand  on  your  head  to  do  it.  And  don't 

16—1933  241 


let  me  see  you  till  you  have!'  'Very  good.  Your 
Imperial  Majesty!'  I  says.  Yes,  lads,  that  was  a 
facer. ...  So  I  took  three  of  the  best  horses  in 
the  tsar's  stables  and  set  out." 

Lighting  a  cigarette,  Avdeyich  surveyed  the 
bowed  heads  of  his  listeners  and,  warming  to 
his  subject,  boomed  out  of  the  cloud  of  smoke 
enveloping  his  face: 

"I  rode  all  day,  and  I  rode  all  night,  until  on 
the  third  day  I  came  up  with  the  villain  near 
Moscow.  I  clapped  the  bird  into  my  coach,  and 
hauled  him  back  to  St.  Petersburg.  I  arrived  at 
midnight,  all  covered  with  mud,  and  went 
straight  to  His  Imperial  Majesty  himself.  All 
sorts  of  counts  and  princes  tried  to  stop  me,  but 
in  I  marched.  Hm.  . .  .  Well,  I  knocks  at  the 
door.  'May  I  come  in.  Your  Imperial  Majesty?' 
'Who  is  it?'  'It's  me,'  I  says,  'Ivan  Avdeyich  Si- 
nilin.'  I  heard  a  noise  in  the  room,  and  heard 
His  Majesty  himself  cry  out:  'Maria  Fyodo- 
rovna,  Maria  Fyodorovna!  Get  up  quick  and 
get  a  samovar  going.  Ivan  Avdeyich  has 
arrived.'  " 

There  was  a  roar  of  laughter  from  the  Cos- 
sacks at  the  back  of  the  crowd.  The  clerk,  who 
had  been  reading  a  notice  about  stray  cattle, 
stopped  in  the  middle  of  a  sentence,  and  the 
ataman  stretched  out  his  neck  like  a  goose  and 
stared  hard  at  the  guffawing  crowd. 

242 


Avdeyich's  face  clouded  and  his  eyes  wan- 
dered uncertainly  over  the  faces  before  him. 

"Wait  a  bit!" 

"Ha-ha-ha!" 

"Oh,  he'll  be  the  death  of  us!" 

"  'Get  a  samovar  going!  Avdeyich  has  ar- 
rived!' Ha-ha-ha!" 

The  assembly  began  to  break  up.  A  constant 
steady  creaking  rose  from  the  frozen  steps  of 
the  administration  house.  On  the  trampled  snow 
outside  Stepan  Astakhov  and  a  tall,  long- 
slianked  Cossack,  the  owner  of  the  windmill, 
were  wrestling  to  get  themselves  warm. 

The  Cossacks  gathered  round  shouting  ad- 
vice. 

"Throw  him,  the  heathen!" 

"Knock  the  stuffing  out  of  him,  Stepan!" 

"Don't  grab  him  there!  Think  you're  clever!" 
old  Kashulin  shouted,  hopping  about  like  a 
sparrow;  and  in  his  excitement  he  failed  to  no- 
tice a  large  bright  dewdrop  hanging  shyly  from 
the  tip  of  his  bluish  nose, 

VIII 

When  Pantelei  returned  from  the  meeting  he 
went  at  once  to  the  room  which  he  and  his  wife 
occupied.  Ilyinichna  had  been  unwell  for  some 
days,  and  her  puffy  face  reflected  her  weariness 

16*  243 


and  pain.  She  lay  propped  up  high  on  a  plump 
feather  bed  with  a  pillow  at  her  back.  At  the 
sound  of  Pantelei's  footsteps  she  turned  her 
head;  her  eyes  rested  on  his  breath-dampened 
beard  and  matted  whiskers  with  the  look  of 
severity  that  had  become  a  habit  with  her,  and 
her  nostrils  twitched.  But  the  old  man  smelled 
only  of  frost  and  sour  sheepskin.  "Sober  to- 
day," she  thought,  and  contentedly  laid  down 
her  knitting-needles. 

"Well,  what  about  the  wood-cutting?" 

"They've  decided  to  begin  on  Thursday." 
Pantelei  stroked  his  moustache.  "Thursday 
morning,"  he  added,  sitting  down  on  a  chest  at 
the  side  of  the  bed.  "Well,  feeling  any  better?" 

"Just  the  same.  Shooting  pains  in  all  my 
joints." 

"I  told  you  not  to  go  into  the  water,  you  fool. 
And  in  autumn  too !  You  knew  what  would  hap- 
pen," Pantelei  fumed,  tracing  broad  circles  on 
the  floor  with  his  stick.  "There  were  plenty  of 
other  women  to  ret  that  hemp,  curse  the  stuff 
. .  .  curse  it  all!" 

"I  couldn't  let  the  hemp  be  wasted.  There 
weren't  any  women.  Grisha  was  out  ploughing 
with  his.  Pyotr  and  Darya  had  gone  off  some- 
where." 

The  old  man  blew  into  his  cupped  hands  and 
bent  towards  the  bed. 

244 


"And  how's  Natalya?" 

There  was  a  note  of  anxiety  in  Ilyinichna's 
voice  as  she  replied: 

"I  don't  know  what  to  do.  She  was  crying 
again  the  other  day.  I  went  out  in  the  yard 
and  found  someone  had  left  the  bam  door  wide 
open.  I  went  up  to  shut  it,  and  there  she  was 
standing  by  the  millet  bin.  I  asked  her  what 
was  the  matter,  but  she  said  she  only  had  a 
headache.  I  can't  get  the  truth  out  of  her." 

"Maybe  she's  poorly?" 

"I  don't  think  so.  Either  someone's  given  her 
the  evil  eye,  or  else  it's  Grisha.  . .  ." 

"He  hasn't  taken  up  again  with  that  woman, 
by  any  chance?" 

"Goodness,  no!  What  a  thing  to  say!"  Ilyi- 
nichna  exclaimed  in  alarm.  "What  do  you  take 
Stepan  for-a  fool?  No,  I  haven't  heard  any- 
thing." 

Pantelei  sat  with  his  wife  a  little  longer,  then 
went  out.  Grigory  was  in  his  room  sharpening 
fishing  hooks  with  a  file.  Natalya  was  smear- 
ing them  with  lard,  and  carefully  wrapping 
each  in  a  separate  rag.  As  Pantelei  limped  by 
he  stared  at  her  inquisitively.  Her  sallow  cheeks 
were  flushed  like  an  autumn  leaf.  She  had 
grown  noticeably  thinner  during  the  past 
month,  and  there  was  a  new,  wretched  look  in 
her  eyes.  The    old  man    paused    at  the    door. 

245 


"He's  killing  the  girl!"  he  thought,  as  he  glanced 
back  at  Natalya's  smooth  head  bowed  over 
the  bench.  Grigory  sat  near  the  window.  His 
black  tousled  forelock  jerked  with  every  stroke 
of  the  file. 

"Drop  that,  devil  take  you!"  the  old  man 
shouted,  turning  livid  in  a  sudden  frenzy.  Gri- 
gory looked  up  startled. 

"I've  got  two  more  points  to  sharpen.  Dad." 

"Drop  it,  I  tell  you!  Get  ready  for  the  wood- 
cutting. The  sledges  aren't  ready  at  all,  and  you 
sit  there  sharpening  hooks,"  he  added  more 
quietly,  and  lingered  at  the  door,  evidently 
wanting  to  say  something  else.  But  he  went  out. 
Grigory  heard  him  giving  vent  to  the  rest  of 
his  anger  on  Pyotr. 

As  Grigory  pulled  on  his  coat,  he  heard  his 
father  shouting  in  the  yard: 

"Haven't  you  watered  the  cattle  yet,  you 
young  lounger?  And  who's  been  meddling  with 
that  stack  by  the  fence?  Didn't  I  say  it  wasn't 
to  be  touched?  You'll  use  up  all  the  best  hay, 
damn  you,  then  what  will  you  feed  the  bullocks 
on  in  spring?" 

A  good  two  hours  before  dawn  on  Thursday, 
Ilyinichna  woke  Darya:  "Get  up!  Time  to  light 
the  fire!" 

Darya  ran  in  her  shift  to  the  stove,  found 
some  matches  and  struck  a  light, 

246 


"Get  a  move  on!"  Pyotr  nagged  his  wife, 
coughing  as  he  lit  a  cigarette. 

"They  don't  go  and  wake  that  Natalya  up! 
Am  I  to  tear  myself  in  two?"  Darya  grumbled 
crossly,  still  only  half-awake. 

"Go  and  wake  her  up  yourself,"  Pyotr  advised 
her.  But  the  advice  was  unnecessary,  for  Na- 
talya was  already  up.  Pulling  on  her  blouse, 
she  went  out  to  get  fuel  for  the  fire. 

"Fetch  some  kindling,"  her  sister-in-law  com- 
manded. 

"Tell  Dunya  to  fetch  the  water,  Darya,  do 
you  hear?"  Ilyinichna  called  hoarsely,  moving 
about  the  kitchen  with  difficulty. 

The  kitchen  smelled  of  fresh  hops,  harness, 
and  the  warmth  of  human  bodies.  Darya  shuf- 
fled about  in  her  felt  boots,  rattling  the  pots; 
under  her  pink  shift  her  small  breasts  quivered. 
Married  life  had  not  soured  or  withered  her. 
Tall  and  slender,  supple  as  a  willow  switch,  she 
looked  like  a  girl. 

She  walked  with  a  twisting  movement  of  the 
shoulders;  she  laughed  at  the  shouts  of  her  hus- 
band; a  firm  row  of  small  close-set  teeth 
showed  under  the  fine  rim  of  her  shrewish 
lips. 

"You  ought  to  have  brought  some  fuel- 
bricks  in  overnight.  They  would  have  dried  in 
the  stove,"  Ilyinichna  grumbled. 

247 


"I  forgot.  Mother,  It  can't  be  helped,"  Darya 
answered. 

Dawn  broke  before  the  meal  was  ready.  Pan- 
telei  hurried  over  his  breakfast,. blowing  on  the 
thin  porridge.  Grigory  ate  slowly  and  moodily, 
his  jaw  muscles  working  up  and  down,  and 
Pyotr,  unnoticed  by  his  father,  amused  himself 
with  teasing  Dunya,  who  was  suffering  with 
toothache  and  had  her  face  bound  up. 

The  sound  of  sledge-runners  was  heard  from 
the  street.  Bullock  sledges  were  moving  down 
to  the  river  in  the  grey  dawn.  Grigory  and 
Pyotr  went  out  to  harness  their  sledges.  As  he 
went  Grigory  wound  a  soft  scarf,  his  wife's 
gift,  around  his  neck,  and  gulped  in  the  dry 
frosty  air.  A  raven  flew  overhead  with  a  full, 
throaty  cry.  The  swish  of  its  slowly  flapping 
wings  could  be  heard  distinctly  in  the  frosty 
stillness.  Pyotr  watched  its  flight  and  re- 
marked : 

"Flying  south,  to  the  warm." 

Behind  a  rosy  little  cloud,  as  gay  as  a  girl- 
ish smile,  a  tiny  slip  of  moon  gleamed  dimly. 
The  smoke  from  the  chimneys  rose  in  columns, 
reaching  towards  the  inaccessibly  distant,  gold- 
en pointed  blade  of  the  waning  moon: 

The  river  was  not  quite  frozen  over  opposite 
the  Melekhovs'  house.  Along  the  edges  of  the 
stream  the  ice  was  firm  and  green  under  drifts 

248 


of  snow.  But  beyond  the  middle  where  springs 
flowed  from  the  Black  Bank,  a  gap  in  the  ice 
yawned  sombre  and  menacing  out  of  the  cor- 
roded whiteness.  The  water  was  freckled  with 
the  wild  duck  that  were  wintering  there. 

Pantelei  drove  off  first  with  the  old  bullocks, 
leaving  his  sons  to  follow  later.  On  the  slope 
down  to  the  river-crossing  Pyotr  and  Grigory 
caught  up  with  Anikushka.  With  a  new  axe 
handle  sticking  out  of  his  sledge,  and  wearing 
a  broad  green  sash  he  was  walking  at  the  side 
of  his  bullocks,  while  his  wife,  a  stunted  sickly 
woman,  held  the  reins. 

"Hullo,  neighbour,  surely  you're  not  taking 
your  woman  with  you?"  Pyotr  shouted  to  him. 

Anikushka,  hopping  up  and  down  to  keep 
warm,  grinned  and  went  over  to  the  brothers. 

"Yes,  I  am,  to  keep  me  warm." 

"You'll  get  no  warmth  from  her,  she's  too 
lean." 

"That's  true;  and  I  feed  her  with  oats,  but 
still  she  doesn't  fatten!" 

"Shall  we  be  cutting  in  the  same  strip?"  Gri- 
gory asked,  jumping  off  the  sledge. 

"Yes,  if  you'll  give  me  a  smoke." 

"You've  always  been  a  scrounger,  Anikushka." 

"The  sweetest  things  in  life  are  begged  and 
stolen,"  Anikushka  chuckled,  wrinkling  his 
hairless  womanish  face  in  a  smile. 

249 


The  three  drove  on  together.  The  forest  was 
laced  with  rime,  and  of  a  virgin  whiteness.  Ani- 
kushka  rode  in  front,  lashing  his  whip  against 
the  branches  overhead.  The  needle-sharp  snow 
crystals  showered  down  on  his  wife. 

"Don't  play  about,  you  devil!"  she  shouted  at 
him,  as  she  shook  the  snow  off. 

"Drop  her  into  the  snow  head  first,"  Pyotr 
advised  trying  to  get  his  whip  under  the  bul- 
lock's belly  to  speed  its  pace. 

At  a  turn  of  the  road  they  met  Stepan  Asta- 
khov  driving  two  yoked  bullocks  back  towards 
the  village.  The  leather  soles  of  his  felt  boots 
squeaked  on  the  snow  as  he  strode  along.  His 
curly  forelock  hung  below  his  fur  cap  like  a 
bunch  of  white  grapes. 

"Hey,  Stepan,  lost  your  way?"  Anikushka 
shouted  as  he  passed. 

"Lost  my  way  be  damned!  We  swung  over, 
and  the  sledge  snapped  its  runner  on  a  stump. 
So  I've  got  to  go  back,"  Stepan  cursed  obscene- 
ly and  his  fierce  light  eyes  narrowed  insolently 
as  he  passed  Pyotr. 

"Left  your  sledge  behind?"  Anikushka  asked, 
turning  round. 

Ignoring  the  remark,  Stepan  cracked  his 
whip  at  the  bullocks  that  were  heading  away 
from  the  track  and  gave  Grigory  a  long  hard 
stare  as  he  passed  on.  A  little  farther  on  the 

250 


group  came  to  a  sledge  abandoned  in  the  middle 
of  the  road.  Aksinya  was  standing  by  it.  Hold- 
ing down  the  edge  of  her  sheepskin  with  her 
left  hand,  she  was  gazing  along  the  road  in 
their  direction. 

"Out  of  the  way  or  I'll  run  you  over.  Oho, 
you're  the  wife  for  me!"  Anikushka  roared.  Ak- 
sinya stepped  aside  with  a  smile,  and  sat  down 
on  the  overturned  sledge. 

"You've  got  your  own  wife  with  you." 

"Yes,  she  sticks  to  me  like  a  burr  on  a  pig's 
tail,  otherwise  I'd  give  you  a  lift." 

"Thank  you  kindly." 

As  Pyotr  came  up  to  her  he  gave  a  quick 
glance  back  at  Grigory.  Grigory  was  smiling 
uncertainly,  anxiety  and  expectation  expressed 
in  all  his  movements. 

"Good  health  to  you,  neighbour,"  Pyotr  greet- 
ed her,  touching  his  cap  with  his  mitten. 

"Praise  be." 

"What,  sledge  broken?"  Pyotr  asked. 

"Yes,  it  is,"  she  replied  slowly  without  look- 
ing at  Pyotr,  and  rising  to  her  feet,  turned 
towards  Grigory.  "Grigory  Panteleyevich, 
I'd  like  a  word  with  you,"  she  said  as  he 
came  up. 

Asking  Pyotr  to  look  after  his  bullocks  for 
a  moment,  Grigory  turned  to  her.  Pyotr 
laughed  suggestively,  and  drove  on. 

251 


The  two  stood  silently  regarding  each  other. 
Aksinya  glanced  cautiously  around,  then  turned 
her  liquid  black  eyes  again  to  Grigory's 
face.  Shame  and  joy  flamed  in  her  cheeks  and 
dried  her  lips.  Her  breath  came  in  sharp  gasps. 

At  a  turn  in  the  road  Anikushka  and  Pyotr 
disappeared  behind  the  brown  oak  trunks. 

Grigory  looked  straight  into  Aksinya's  eyes 
and  saw  in  them  a  spark  of  stubborn  reckless- 
ness. 

"Well,  Grisha,  do  as  you  please,  but  I  can't 
live  without  you,"  she  said  firmly,  and  pressed 
her  lips  together  waiting  for  his  answer. 

Grigory  made  no  reply.  The  forest  was  locked 
in  silence.  A  glassy  emptiness  rang  in  his  ears. 
The  surface  of  the  road,  polished  smooth  by 
sledge-runners,  the  grey  rag  of  sky,  the  forest, 
dumb,  deathly  drowsy. ...  A  sudden  cry  of  a 
raven  near  by  seemed  to  rouse  Grigory  from 
his  momentary  lethargy.  He  raised  his  head 
and  watched  the  bird  winging  away  in  silent 
flight.  He  was  surprised  when  he  heard  him- 
self say: 

"It's  going  to  be  warm.  He's  making  for  the 
warm."  He  seemed  to  shake  himself  and  laughed 
hoarsely.  "Well.  .  . ."  He  turned  his  intoxi- 
cated eyes  furtively  on  Aksinya,  and  suddenly 
snatched  her  to  him. 


252 


IX 


During  the  winter  evenings  a  little  group 
of  villagers  gathered  in  Stockman's  room  at  Lu- 
keshka's  house.  There  were  Christonya,  and 
Knave  from  the  mill,  a  greasy  jacket  draped 
over  his  shoulders,  the  ever-smiling  David  (now 
three  months  a  loafer),  the  engineman,  Ivan 
Alexeyevich  Kotlyarov,  sometimes  Filka  the 
cobbler,  and  always  Misha  Koshevoi,  a  young 
Cossack  who  had  not  yet  done  his  regular  army 
service. 

At  first  the  group  played  cards.  Then  Stock- 
man casually  brought  out  a  book  of  Nekrasov's 
poetry.  They  began  to  read  the  volume  aloud, 
and  liked  it.  Then  they  went  on  to  Nikitin,  and 
about  Christmas-time  Stockman  suggested  the 
reading  of  a  dog-eared,  unbound  booklet. 
Koshevoi,  who  had  been  to  the  church  school 
and  could  read  aloud,  glanced  contemptuously 
at  the  greasy  pages. 

"You  could  make  noodles  of  it,  it's  so 
greasy,"  he  said  in  disgust. 

Christonya  roared  with  laughter;  David 
smiled  dazzlingly.  But  Stockman  waited  for 
the  merriment  to  die  away,  and  then  said: 

"Read  it,  Misha.  It's  interesting.  It's  all 
about  the  Cossacks." 

253 


Bending  his  head  over  the  table,  Koshevoi 
spelt  out  laboriously: 

"A  Short  History  oi  the  Don  Cossacks,"  and 
then  glanced  around  expectantly. 

"Read  it!"  Kotlyarov  said. 

They  laboured  through  the  book  for  three 
evenings,  reading  about  the  free  life  of  the 
past,  about  Pugachov,  Stenka  Razin  and  Kon- 
draty  Bulavin.  Finally  they  came  down  to  re- 
cent times.  The  unknown  author  poured  scorn 
on  the  Cossacks'  miserable  existence;  scoffed 
at  the  authorities  and  the  system,  the  tsar's 
government  and  the  Cossackry  itself  which 
had  hired  itself  out  to  the  monarchs  as  their 
henchmen.  The  listeners  grew  excited  and  be- 
gan to  quarrel  among  themselves.  Christonya, 
his  head  touching  the  roof-beam,  spoke  up  in 
his  booming  voice.  Stockman  sat  at  the  door, 
smoking  a  pipe,  his   eyes   smiling. 

"He's  right!  It's  all  true!"  Christonya  burst 
out. 

"It's  not  our  fault  such  shame  was  brought 
upon  the  Cossacks."  Koshevoi  spread  his  arms 
in  perplexity  and  puckered  up  his  handsome 
face. 

He  was  thick-set,  broad  in  the  shoulders  and 
hips,  almost  square.  From  the  cast-iron  founda- 
tion of  his  body  rose  a  firm  brick-red  neck  on 
which  his  small,    gracefully    set    head    looked 

254 


strange,  with  its  effeminately  soft  cheeks,  small 
obstinate  mouth  and  dark  eyes  under  the 
golden  slab  of  curly  hair. 

The  engineman  Kotlyarov,  a  tall  thin  Cos- 
sack, was  steeped  to  the  bone  in  Cossack  tra- 
ditions, and  his  round  protruding  eyes  flashed 
as   he  vigorously  defended  the   Cossacks: 

"You're  a  muzhik,  Christonya,  you've  only  got 
a  drop  of  Cossack  blood  in  you  to  a  bucketful 
of  water.  Your  mother  was  mated  with  a  mu- 
zhik from  Voronezh." 

"You're  a  fool,  you're  a  fool,  brother!" 
Christonya  boomed.  "I  stand  for  the  truth." 

"I  wasn't  in  the  Lifeguards,"  Kotlyarov 
said  slyly.   "They're   all  fools  there." 

"There  are  some  pretty  hopeless  cases  in 
the  rest  of  the  army  too." 

"Shut  up,  muzhik!" 

"And  aren't  the  muzhiks  just  as  much  men 
as  you?" 

"They're  muzhiks,  they're  made  of  bast  and 
stuffed  with  brushwood." 

"When  I  was  serving  in  Petersburg,  brother, 
I  saw  many  things,"  Christonya  said,  his 
southern  accent  coming  out  strongly.  "Once  it 
happened  that  we  were  on  guard  at  the  tsar's 
palace,  inside  and  outside.  We  used  to  ride 
round  the  walls  on  horseback,  two  this  way 
and  two  that.  When  we  met  we  used  to  ask: 

255 


'All  quiet,  no  disorders  anywhere?'  and  then 
we'd  ride  on.  We  weren't  allowed  to  stop  and 
talk.  And  they  chose  us  for  our  looks.  When 
we  had  to  take  our  turn  on  guard  at  the  doors 
they'd  choose  each  pair  so  as  they  should  be 
alike  in  their  faces  and  their  figures.  Once 
the  barber  even  had  to  dye  my  beard  because 
of  this  stupidity.  I  had  to  take  a  turn  at  guard 
with  a  Cossack  in  our  squadron  with  hair  that 
was  a  kind  of  bay  colour.  Plagued  if  I  know 
how  he  got  like  it,  must  have  been  scorched 
by  a  fire  or  something.  They  searched  all 
through  the  regiment  and  there  wasn't  another 
like  him.  So  the  troop  commander  sent  me  to 
the  barber  to  have  my  beard  dyed.  When  I 
looked  in  the  glass  afterwards  my  heart  al- 
most broke.  I  looked  as  if  I  was  on  fire. 
Honestly  I  did.  Made  my  fingers  sizzle  to 
touch  the  thing!" 

"Now  he's  off,  the  old  windbag.  But  what 
were  we  talking  about?"  Kotlyarov  interrupted 
him, 

"About  the  people." 

"Well,  tell  us  about  them.  What  the  blither- 
ing hell  do  we  want  to  hear  about  your  beard 
for!" 

"Well,  as  I  was  saying-I  once  had  to  take 
a  turn  on  guard  outside.  We  were  riding  along, 
me  and  my  comrade,  when  a  mob  of  students 

256 


came  running  round  the  corner.  Thick  as  flies 
they  were!  As  soon  as  they  saw  us  they  roared: 
Hah!'  and  then  again:  'Hah!'  And  before  we 
knew  where  we  were  they  had  surrounded  us, 
'What  are  you  riding  about  for,  Cossacks?' 
they  asked.  And  I  said:  'We're  keeping  guard, 
and  you  let  go  those  reins,  young  fella' '  and 
clapped  my  hands  on  my  sword.  'Don't  get  me 
wrong,  Cossack,  I'm  from  Kamenskaya  Dis- 
trict myself,  and  I'm  studying  in  the  uniservity, 
or  the  univorsity,  or  whatever  you  call  it,  one 
said.  We  make  to  ride  on,  and  one  fellow  with 
a  big  nose  pulls  out  a  ten-ruble  piece  and  says: 
'Drink  to  the  health  of  my  dead  father,'  And 
then  he  pulls  a  picture  out  of  his  pocket. 
'Look,  that's  my  father,'  he  says,  'take  it  as  a 
keepsake.'  Well,  we  took  it,  we  couldn't  refuse. 
And  they  went  off  again.  Just  then  a  lieutenant 
comes  riding  out  of  the  back  gates  of  the 
palace  with  a  troop  of  men.  'What's  happened?' 
he  shouts.  And  I  tell  him  students  had  come 
and  begun  talking  to  us,  and  we  had  wanted 
to  sabre  them  according  to  instructions,  but  as 
they  had  set  us  free  we  had  ridden  off.  When 
we  went  off  duty  later,  we  told  the  corporal 
we'd  earned  ten  rubles  and  wanted  to  drink 
them  to  the  memory  of  the  old  man,  showing 
him  the  picture.  In  the  evening  the  corporal 
brought  some  vodka,  and  we  had  a  good  time 

17—1933  257 


for  a  couple  of  days.  But  afterwards  we  found 
out  what  the  trick  was.  It  turned  out  that  this 
student,  the  young  bastard,  had  given  us  a 
picture  of  the  biggest  trouble-maker  in  Ger- 
many. I  had  hung  it  over  my  bed;  he  had  a 
grey  beard  and  looked  a  decent  sort  of  chap. 
But  the  lieutenant  saw  it  and  asked:  'Where 
did  you  get  that  picture  from,  you  son  of  a 
gun?'  So  I  told  him,  and  he  began  swearing 
at  me  and  punching  me  in  the  face:  'Do  you 
know  who  that  is?  He's  their  ataman  Karl.  .  .  .' 
Drat  it,  I've  forgotten  his  name.  Now,  what 
was  it.  . .  ?" 

"Karl  Marx?"   Stockman  suggested  with  a 
broad  smile. 

"That's  it,  Karl  Mars,"  Christonya  exclaimed 
joyfully.  "He  got  me  into  trouble  all  right. 
Why,  sometimes  the  tsarevich  Alexei  and  his 
tutors  used  to  come  into  the  guardroom.  They 
might  have  seen  it.  What  would  have  happened 
then?" 

"And  you  keep  praising  the  muzhiks.  What 
a  trick  they  played  on  you,"  Kotlyarov 
chuckled. 

"But  we  drank  the  ten  rubles.  It  was  the 
bearded  Karl  we  drank  to,  but  we  drank  all 
the  same!" 

"He  deserves  to  be  drunk  to,"  Stockman 
smiled,   playing  with  his   cigarette-holder. 

258 


"Why,  what  good  did  he  do?"  Koshevoi 
queried. 

"I'll  tell  you  another  time,  it's  getting  late 
now."  Stockman  held  the  holder  between  his 
fingers,  and  ejected  the  dead  cigarette-end  with 
a  slap  from  the  other  hand. 

After  long  sifting  and  testing,  a  little  group 
of  ten  Cossacks  began  to  meet  regularly  in 
Stockman's  workshop.  Stockman  was  the  heart 
and  soul  of  the  group  and  he  worked  straight 
towards  a  goal  that  only  he  fully  understood. 
He  ate  into  the  simple  understandings  and 
conceptions  like  a  worm  into  wood,  instilling 
repugnance  and  hatred  towards  the  existing 
system.  At  first  he  found  himself  confronted 
with  the  cold  steel  of  distrust,  but  he  was  not 
to  be  repulsed.  Even  that  could  be  worn  away. 

X 

On  the  sandy  slope  of  the  left  bank  of  the 
Don  lies  Vyeshenskaya  stanitsa,  the  most  an- 
cient stanitsa  of  the  upper  Don.  Originally 
called  Chigonaki,  it  was  moved  to  a  new 
site  after  being  sacked  during  the  reign  of 
Peter  the  First,  and  renamed  Vyeshenskaya, 
It  was  formerly  an  important  link  along 
the  great  water-way    from    Voronezh  to  Azov. 

Opposite  Vyeshenskaya  the  Don  bends  like 

17*  259 


a  Tatar  bow,  turns  sharply  to  the  right,  and 
by  the  little  village  of  Bazki  majestically 
straightens  again,  carries  its  greenish-blue 
waters  over  the  chalky  base  of  the  hills  on  the 
west  bank,  then,  with  thickly-clustered  villages 
on  the  right  and  occasional  stanitsas  on  the 
left,  down  to  the  sea,  to  the  blue  Sea  of  Azov. 

At  Ust-Khoperskaya  it  joins  with  its  tribu- 
tary the  Khoper,  and  at  Ust-Medveditskaya, 
with  the  Medveditsa,  and  then  it  flows  on  deep 
and  full-watered  amid  a  riotous  growth  of 
populous  villages  and  stanitsas. 

The  stanitsa  of  Vyeshenskaya  stands  among 
yellow  sand-drifts.  It  is  a  bald  cheerless  place 
without  orchards.  In  the  square  stands  an  old 
church,  grey  with  age,  and  six  streets  run  out 
of  the  square  in  lines  parallel  with  the  river. 
Where  the  Don  bends  towards  Bazki,  a  lake, 
about  as  wide  as  the  Don  in  the  dry  season, 
branches  off  into  a  thicket  of  poplars.  The  far 
end  of  Vyeshenskaya  slopes  down  to  this  lake, 
and  in  a  smaller  square,  overgrown  with  golden 
prickly  thorn,  is  a  second  church,  with  green 
cupolas  and  green  roof,  matching  the  green  of 
the  poplars  on  the  other  side  of  the  lake. 

Beyond  the  village  to  the  north  stretches  a 
saffron  waste  of  sands,  a  stunted  pine  planta- 
tion, and  creeks  whose  water  is  pink  from  the 
red-clay    soil.    Here    and    there    in    the    sandy 

260 


wilderness  are  rare  oases  of  villages,  meadow- 
land,  and  a  rusty  scrub  of  willows. 

One  Sunday  in  December  a  dense  crowd  of 
five  hundred  young  Cossacks  from  all  the  vil- 
lages in  the  district  was  assembled  in  the 
square  outside  the  old  church.  Mass  ended,  the 
senior  sergeant,  a  gallant  old  Cossack  with 
long-service  decorations,  gave  an  order,  and 
the  youngsters  drew  up  in  two  long  straggling 
ranks.  Sergeants  rushed  to  and  fro  to  get  them 
dressed  off. 

"Ranks!"  the  sergeant  boomed  and  making 
a  vague  gesture  with  his  hand,  snapped:  "Form 
fours." 

The  ataman  entered  the  churchyard,  dressed 
according  to  form  and  wearing  a  new  officer's 
greatcoat,  his  spurs  jingling,  and  followed  by 
the  military  policeman, 

Grigory  Melekhov  who  was  standing  next  to 
Mitka  Korshunov  heard  him  whisper: 

"My  boot  pinches  like  hell." 

"Stick  it  out,  they'll  make  you  an  ata- 
man." 

"We'll  be  going  inside  soon." 

As  if  to  confirm  this,  the  senior  sergeant  fell 
back  a  pace  or  two,  turned  sharply  on  his  heels 
and  shouted: 

"Right  turn.   Forward  march!" 

The    column    filed    through    the    wide-open 

261 


gate,  and  the  church  dome  rang  with  the  sound 
of   tramping  feet. 

Grigory  paid  no  attention  to  the  words  of 
the  oath  of  allegiance  being  read  by  the  priest. 
By  his  side  stood  Mitka  Korshunov,  his  face 
contorted  with  the  pain  of  his  tight  new  boots. 
Grigory's  upraised  arm  grew  numb,  an  aching 
jumble  of  thoughts  was  running  through  his 
mind.  As  he  came  up  to  the  crucifix  and  kissed 
the  silver,  damp  with  the  moisture  of  many 
lips,  he  thought  of  Aksinya,  and  of  his  wife 
With  the  suddenness  of  a  flash  of  forked  light- 
ning he  had  a  vision  of  the  forest,  its  brown 
trunks  and  branches  fluffed  with  white  down, 
and  the  humid  gleam  of  Aksinya's  black  eyes 
under  her  kerchief.  .  .  . 

When  the  ceremony  was  ended  they  were 
marched  out  into  the  square  and  were  again 
drawn  up  in  ranks.  Blowing  his  nose  and 
stealthily  wiping  his  fingers  on  the  lining  of 
his  coat,  the  sergeant  addressed  them: 

"You're  not  boys  any  longer  now,  you're 
Cossacks.  You've  taken  the  oath  and  you  ought 
to  understand  what's  what.  You've  grown  up 
into  Cossacks  and  you've  got  to  guard  your 
honour,  obey  your  fathers  and  mothers  and  all 
the  rest  of  it.  You  were  boys  once,  you've  had 
your  fun  and  games-used  to  play  tipcat  in  the 
road,  I  expect-but  now  you  must  think  about 

262 


your  future  service.  In  a  year's  time  they'll  be 
calling  you  up  into  the  army.  .  .  ."  Here  the 
sergeant  blew  his  nose  again,  shook  his  hand 
clean  and,  drawing  on  his  rabbit's  down  gloves, 
ended:  "And  your  fathers  and  mothers  must 
think  about  getting  you  your  equipment.  They 
must  fit  you  out  with  an  army  horse,  and  .  .  . 
in  general.  .  .  .  And  now,  home  you  go  and  God 
be  with  you,  my  lads." 

Grigory  and  Mitka  joined  up  with  the  rest 
of  the  lads  from  their  village,  and  they  set  off 
together  for  home. 

They  walked  back  along  the  Don.  The  smoke 
of  cottage  stoves  hung  in  wisps  over  the  village 
of  Bazki,  and  bells  were  ringing  faintly.  Mitka 
limped  along  behind  the  others,  leaning  on  a 
knotty  stake  that  he  had  broken  out  of  a  fence. 

"Take  your  boot  off,"  one  of  the  lads  advised. 

"I'll  get  my  foot  frost-bitten,"  Mitka  replied 
hesitantly. 

"You  can  keep   your  sock  on." 

Mitka  sat  down  on  the  snow  and  tugged  off 
his  boot.  Then  he  walked  on,  stepping  heavily 
on  his  stockinged  foot.  The  thick  knitted  stock- 
ing made  a  sharp  imprint  in  the  crisp  snow. 

"What  road  shall  we  take?"  the  stumpy 
shock-headed  Alexei    Beshnyak   asked. 

"Along  the  Don,"  Grigory  answered  for 
them  all. 

263 


They  walked  on,  talking  and  jostling  one 
another  off  the  road.  Each  of  them  was  pulled 
over  by  the  others,  who  piled  on  top  of  him. 
Between  Bazki  and  Gromkovsky  Mitka  was  the 
first  to  spot  a  wolf  crossing  the  Don. 

"Look,  lads,  there's  a  wolf!" 

The  young  Cossacks  started  shouting  and 
catcalling  and  the  wolf  loped  off,  then  halted, 
standing  sideways,  not  far  from  the  opposite 
bank. 

"Catch  him!" 

"Yah!" 

"It's  you  he's  looking  at,  Mitka,  walking  in 
your  sock." 

"What  a  fat  neck  he's  got!" 

"Look,  there  he  goes!" 

The  grey  form  stood  stiffly  for  a  moment, 
as  though  carved  out  of  granite,  then  took  a 
hurried  leap  and  slunk  away  into  the  willows 
girding  the  bank. 

It  was  dusk  when  they  reached  the  village. 
Grigory  made  his  way  along  the  ice  to  the  path 
that  led  up  to  his  home.  A  disused  sledge  stood 
in  the  yard;  in  a  heap  of  brushwood  piled 
near  the  fence  the  sparrows  were  twittering. 
He  felt  the  smell  of  habitation,  of  charred 
soot,  and  the  steamy  odour  of  the  stables. 

Grigory  went  up  the  steps  of  the  house  and 
glanced  in  at  the  window.  The  hanging  lamp 

264 


shed  a  dim  yellow  glow  through  the  room. 
Pyotr  was  standing  in  its  light  with  his  back 
to  the  window.  Grigory  brushed  the  snow  off 
his  boots  with  the  besom  at  the  door,  and 
entered  the  kitchen  amid  a  flurry  of  steam. 

"Well,  I'm  back." 

"You've  been  quick.  You  got  frozen,  I  ex- 
pect," Pyotr  replied  in  an  anxious  and  hurried 
tone. 

Pantelei  was  sitting  with  his  head  bowed  in 
his  hands,  his  elbows  on  his  knees.  Darya  was 
spinning  at  the  droning  spinning-wheel.  Nata- 
lya  was  standing  at  the  table  with  her  back  to 
Grigory,  and  did  not  turn  round  on  his  entry. 
Glancing  hastily  around  the  kitchen  Grigory 
rested  his  eyes  on  Pyotr.  His  brother's  agitat- 
edly expectant  face  told  him  that  something 
was  amiss. 

"Taken  the  oath?" 

"Uh-huh." 

Grigory  took  off  his  outdoor  clothes  slowly, 
playing  for  time,  and  turning  over  in  his  mind 
all  the  possibilities  which  might  have  led  to 
this  chilly  and  silent  welcome.  Ilyinichna  came 
out  of  the  best  room,  her  face  expressing  her 
agitation. 

"It's  Natalya!"  Grigory  thought,  as  he  sat 
down  on  the  bench  beside  his  father. 

''Get  him  some  supper,"  his  mother  said  to 

265 


Darya,  indicating  Grigory  with  her  eyes. 
Darya  stopped  in  the  middle  of  her  spinning- 
song,  and  went  to  the  stove,  her  girlish  figure 
swaying  from  the  waist.  The  kitchen  was  en- 
gulfed in  a  silence  broken  only  by  the  heavy 
breathing  of  a  goat  and  its  newly-born  kid. 

As  Grigory  sipped  his  soup  he  glanced  at 
Natalya.  But  he  could  not  see  her  face.  She  was 
sitting  sideways  to  him,  her  head  bent  over 
her  knitting-needles.  Pantelei  was  the  first  to 
be  provoked  into  speech  by  the  general  silence. 
Coughing  artificially,  he  said: 

"Natalya  is  talking  about  going  back  to  her 
parents." 

Grigory  pressed  some  bread-crumbs  into  a 
ball,  and  said  nothing. 

"And  why's  that?"  his  father  asked,  his 
lower  lip  quivering:  the  first  sign  of  a  coming 
outburst  of  frenzy. 

"I  don't  know,"  Grigory  replied  as  he  rose 
and  crossed  himself. 

"But  I  know!"  his  father  raised  his  voice. 

"Don't  shout,  don't  shout!"  Ilyinichna  inter- 
posed. 

"Yes,  there's  no  cause  for  shouting."  Pyotr 
moved  from  the  window  to  the  middle  of  the 
room.  "It's  up  to  her.  If  she  wants  to  stay,  she 
can  stay;  if  she  doesn't,  well  .  .  .  God  be  with 
her!" 

266 


"I'm  not  blaming  her.  Of  course  it's  a  dis- 
grace and  a  sin  before  God  to  leave  your  hus- 
band, but  I  don't  blame  her.  It's  not  her  fault, 
but  that  son  of  a  bitch's."  Pantelei  pointed 
to  Grigory  who  was  warming  himself  at  the 
stove. 

"Who  have  I  done  wrong?"  Grigory  asked. 

"You  don't  know?  You  don't  know,  you 
devil?" 

"No,  I  don't." 

Pantelei  jumped  up,  overturning  the  bench, 
and  went  close  up  to  Grigory.  Natalya  dropped 
her  stocking  and  the  needles  clattered  to  the 
floor.  At  the  sound  a  kitten  jumped  down  from 
the  stove  and,  with  its  head  on  one  side  and 
paw  curved,  began  to  pat  the  ball  of  wool  to- 
wards the  chest. 

"What  I  say  to  you  is  this,"  the  old  man  be- 
gan slowly  and  deliberately.  "If  you  won't  live 
with  Natalya,  you  can  clear  out  of  this  house 
and  go  wherever  your  feet  will  carry  you. 
That's  what  I  say  to  you.  Go  where  your  feet 
will  carry  you,"  he  repeated  in  a  calm  voice, 
and  turned  and  picked  up  the  bench. 

Dunya  sat  on  the  bed,  her  round  frightened 
eyes  darting  from  one  to  the  other. 

"I  don't  say  this  in  anger.  Dad,"  Grigory's 
voice  was  jarringly  hollow.  "I  didn't  marry  of 
my  own  choice,  it  was  you  who  married  me 

267 


off.  As  for  Natalya,  I'm  not  stopping  her.  She 
can  go  to  her  father,  if  she  wants  to." 
"You  clear  out  yourself." 
"I  will!" 

"Go  to  the  devil!" 

"I'm  going.  I'm  going,  don't  be  in  a  hurry." 
Grigory  reached  for  the  sleeve  of  his  short  fur 
coat  lying  on  the  bed,  his  nostrils  dilated,  his 
whole  body  quivering  with  a  boiling  anger  that 
was  just  like  his  father's.  The  same  mingled 
Turkish  and  Cossack  blood  flowed  in  their 
veins,  and  at  that  moment  their  resemblance  to 
each  other  was  extraordinary. 

"Where  are  you  going?"  Ilyinichna  groaned, 
seizing  Grigory' s  arm.  But  he  pushed  her  away 
forcibly  and  snatched  up  his  fur  cap. 

"Let  him  go,  the  sinful  swine!  Let  him  go, 
curse  him!  Go  on,  go!  Clear  out!"  the  old  man 
thundered  throwing  the  door  wide  open. 

Grigory  ran  out  on  to  the  steps,  and  the  last 
sound  he  heard  was  Natalya's  loud  uncontrol- 
lable weeping. 

The  frosty  night  held  the  village  in  its  grip, 
prickly  snow  was  falling  from  the  black  sky, 
the  cracking  of  the  ice  on  the  Don  resounded 
like  cannon  shots.  Grigory  ran  panting  out  of 
the  gate.  At  the  far  end  of  the  village  dogs 
were  barking  discordantly,  and  yellow  points 
of  light  shone  through  the  frosty  haze. 

268 


He  walked  aimlessly  down  the  street.  The 
blackness  of  the  Astakhovs'  windows  gleamed 
with  the  brilliance  of  a  diamond. 

"Grisha!"  he  heard  Natalya's  yearning  cry 
from  the  gate. 

"You  go  to  hell!"  Grigory  grated  his  teeth 
and  hastened  his  steps. 

"Grisha,  come  back!" 

He  stumbled  drunkenly  into  the  first  cross- 
lane,  and  for  the  last  time  heard  her  distant, 
anguished  cry: 

"Grisha,  darling. .  . ." 

He  swiftly  crossed  the  square  and  stopped 
at  a  fork  in  the  road,  wondering  where  to 
spend  the  night.  He  decided  on  Misha  Koshe- 
voi.  Misha  lived  with  his  mother,  sister  and 
two  little  brothers  in  a  lonely  straw-thatched 
house  right  by  the  hill,  Grigory  entered  their 
yard  and  knocked  at  the  tiny  window. 

"Who  is  it?" 

"Is  Misha  there?" 

"Yes,  who  is  it  wants  him?" 

"It's  me,    Grigory  Melekhov." 

After  a  moment,  Misha,  awakened  from  his 
first  sleep,  opened  the  door. 

"You,  Grisha?" 

"Me." 

"What  do  you  want  at  this  time  of  night?" 

"Let  me  in,  we'll  talk  inside," 

269 


In  the  passage,  Grigory  gripped  Misha's 
elbow  and  cursing  himself  for  being  unable  to 
find  the  right  words,  whispered:  "I  want  to 
spend  the  night  with  you.  I've  fallen  out  with 
my  people.  Have  you  got  room  for  me?  Any- 
where will  do." 

"We'll  fix  you  up  somewhere.  What's  the  row 
about?" 

"I'll  tell  you  later.  ,  .  .  Where's  the  door 
here?  I  can't  see  it." 

They  made  Grigory  a  bed  on  the  bench.  He 
lay  thinking,  his  head  tucked  under  his  sheep- 
skin so  as  not  to  hear  the  whispering  of 
Misha's  mother,  who  slept  in  the  same  bed  as 
her  daughter.  What  was  happening  at  home 
now,  he  wondered.  Would  Natalya  go  back  to 
her  father  or  not?  Well,  life  had  taken  a  new 
turn.  Where  should  he  go?  And  the  answer 
came  swiftly.  He  would  send  for  Aksinya  to- 
morrow, and  go  with  her  to  the  Kuban,  far 
away  from  here  .  .  .  far,  far  away.  .  .  . 

Rolling  steppeland,  villages,  stanitsas,  un- 
known, unloved,  floated  before  Grigory's 
closed  eyes.  And  beyond  the  rolling  hills,  be- 
yond the  long  grey  road  lay  a  welcoming  land 
of  blue  skies,  a  fairy-tale  land  with  Aksinya's 
love,  in  all  its  rebellious  late-flowering  strength, 
to  make  it  the  more  attractive. 

270 


His  sleep  was  troubled  by  the  approaching 
unknown.  Before  he  finally  dozed  off  he  tried 
hard  to  recall  what  it  was  that  oppressed  him. 
In  his  drowsy  state  his  thoughts  would  flow 
easily  and  smoothly,  like  a  boat  going  down- 
stream, then  suddenly  they  would  come  up 
against  something,  as  though  the  boat  had 
struck  a  sandbank.  He  wrestled  with  the  baffl- 
ing obstacle.  What  was  it  that  lay  in  his  path? 

In  the  morning  he  awoke  and  at  once  re- 
membered what  it  was-his  army  service!  How 
could  he  go  away  with  Aksinya?  In  the  spring 
there  was  the  training  camp,  and  in  the  autumn 
the  army  draft. 

He  had  some  breakfast,  and  called  Misha 
out  into  the  passage. 

"Misha,  go  to  the  Astakhovs  for  me,  will 
you?"  he  said.  "Tell  Aksinya  to  come  to  the 
windmill  this   evening  after  dark." 

"But  what  about  Stepan?"  Misha  said  hesi- 
tantly. 

"Say  you've  come  on  some  business  or 
other." 

"All  right,  I'll  go." 

"Tell  her  to  be  sure  to  come." 

"Oh,  all  right." 

In  the  evening  Grigory  went  to  the  mill  and 
sat  there  smoking,  hiding  the  cigarette  in  his 
cuff.  Beyond  the  mill  the  wind  was  stumbling 

271 


over  withered  maize  stalks.  A  scrap  of  torn 
canvas  flapped  on  the  chained  and  motionless 
sail.  It  sounded  like  a  great  bird  flapping  round 
the  mill,  unable  to  fly  away.  Aksinya  did  not 
appear.  The  sun  had  set  in  the  west  in  a  fad- 
ing, gilded  lilac,  from  the  east  the  wind  began 
to  blow  freshly;  darkness  was  overtaking  the 
moon  stranded  among  the  willows.  Above  the 
windmill  the  ruddy,  blue-streaked  sky  was 
deathly  dark;  the  last  sounds  of  busy  day 
hovered  over  the  village. 

He  smoked  three  cigarettes  in  succession, 
thrust  the  last  end  into  the  trodden  snow,  and 
gazed  round  in  anxious  irritation.  Half-thawed 
cart-tracks  from  the  mill  to  the  village  showed 
darkly  in  the  snow.  There  was  no  one  in  sight. 
He  rose,  stretched  himself,  and  moved  towards 
the  light  twinkling  invitingly  in  Misha's 
window.  He  was  approaching  the  yard,  whis- 
tling through  his  teeth,  when  he  stumbled  into 
Aksinya.  She  had  evidently  been  running:  she 
was  out  of  breath,  and  the  faint  scent  of  the 
winter  wind,  or  perhaps  of  fresh  steppe  hay, 
came  from  her  fresh  cold  mouth. 

"I  waited  and  waited,  I  thought  you  weren't 
coming." 

"I  had  to  get  rid  of  Stepan." 

"You've  made  me  frozen,  you  wretch!" 

272 


"I'm  hot,  I'll  warm  you."  She  flung  open  her 
wool-lined  coat  and  wrapped  herself  round 
Grigory  like  hops  round  an  oak, 

"Why  did  you  send  for  me?" 

"Take  your  arms  away,  somebody  may  pass." 

"You  haven't  quarrelled  with  your  people, 
have  you?" 

"I've  left  them.  I  spent  the  night  with  Misha. 
I'm  a  homeless  dog  now." 

"What  will  you  do  now?"  Aksinya  relaxed 
the  grip  of  her  arms  and  drew  her  coat  tight 
with  a  shiver.  "Let's  go  over  to  the  fence, 
Grisha,  We  can't  stand  here  in  the  middle  of 
the  road." 

They  turned  off  the  road,  and  Grigory, 
sweeping  away  the  drift-snow,  leaned  against 
the  frosty  crackling  wattle  fence. 

"You  don't  know  whether  Natalya  has  gone 
home,  do  you?" 

"I  don't.  .  .  .  She'll  go,  I  expect.  How  can  she 
stay  here?" 

Grigory  slipped  Aksinya's  frozen  hand  up 
the  sleeve  of  his  coat,  and  squeezing  her 
slender  wrist,  he  said: 

"And  what  about  us?" 

"I  don't  know,  dear.  Whatever  you  think 
best." 

"Will  you  leave  Stepan?" 

"Without  a  sigh.  This  evening,  if  you  like." 

18—1933  273 


"And  we'll  find  work  somewhere,  and  live 
somehow." 

"They  can  put  me  in  the  shafts  as  long  as 
I'm  with  you,  Grisha.  Anything  to  be  with 
you." 

They  stood  close  together,  each  warming  the 
other.  Grigory  did  not  want  to  stir;  he  stood 
facing  into  the  wind,  his  nostrils  quivering,  his 
eyelids  closed.  Aksinya,  her  face  pressed  into 
his  armpit,  breathed  in  the  familiar,  intoxicat- 
ing scent  of  his  sweat;  and  on  her  shamelessly 
avid  lips,  hidden  from  Grigory's  eyes,  trembled 
a  joyous  smile  of  happiness  fulfilled. 

"Tomorrow  I'll  go  and  see  Mokhov.  He  may 
be  able  to  give  me  work,"  Grigory  said,  shift- 
ing his  grip  on  Aksinya's  wrist,  which  had 
grown  damp  with  perspiration  under  his 
fingers.  Aksinya  did  not  speak,  nor  did  she 
raise  her  head.  The  smile  slipped  like  a  dying 
wind  from  her  face,  and  the  anxiety  and  fear 
lurking  in  her  dilated  eyes  gave  them  the  look 
of  a  frightened  animal.  "Shall  I  tell  him  or 
not?"  she  thought,  as  she  remembered  that  she 
was  pregnant.  "I  must  tell  him,"  she  decided, 
but  immediately,  trembling  with  fear,  she  drove 
away  the  terrible  thought.  With  a  woman's  in- 
stinct she  sensed  that  this  was  not  the  moment 
to  tell  him;  she  realized  that  she  might  lose 
Grigory  for   ever;  and   uncertain  whether  the 

274 


child  leaping  beneath  her  heart  was  Grigory's 
or  Stepan's,  she  deceived  her  conscience,  and 
did  not  tell  him. 

"Why  are  you  trembling?  Are  you  cold?" 
Grigory  asked,  wrapping  his  coat  about  her. 

"I  am  a  little.  ...  I  must  go,  Grisha.  Stepan 
will  come  back  and  find  me  away." 

"Where's  he  gone?" 

"To  Anikei's  to  play  cards." 

They  parted.  The  agitating  scent  of  her  lips 
remained  on  Grigory's  lips;  the  scent  of  the 
winter  wind,  or  perhaps  that  faint,  faraway 
scent  that  comes  from  the  hay  after  a  spring 
shower  in  the  steppe. 

Aksinya  turned  into  a  by-way;  bending  low, 
she  almost  ran.  By  a  well,  where  the  cattle  had 
churned  up  the  autumn  mud,  she  stumbled  awk- 
wardly, her  foot  slipping  on  a  frozen  clod;  and 
feeling  a  lacerating  pain  in  her  belly  she  caught 
at  the  fence.  The  pain  died  away,  but  in  her 
side  something  living,  moving,  beat  angrily  and 
strongly  time  and  again. 

XI 

Next  morning  Grigory  went  to  see  Mokhov. 
Mokhov  had  just  returned  from  the  shop  and 
was  sitting  with  Atyopin  in  the  dining-room 
with  its  rich  oak-coloured  wall-paper,    sipping 

18*  275 


strong,  claret-coloured  tea.  Grigory  left  his  cap 
in  the  hall  and  went  in, 

"I'd  like  to  have  a  word  with  you,  Sergei  Pla- 
tonovich," 

"Ah,  Pantelei  Melekhov's  son,  isn't  it?  What 
do  you  want?" 

"I've  come  to  ask  whether  you  could  give  me 
a  job." 

As  Grigory  spoke  the  door  creaked,  and  a 
young  officer  in  a  khaki  tunic  with  a  lieutenant's 
epaulettes  entered.  Grigory  recognized  him  as 
the  young  Listnitsky  whom  Mitka  Korshunov 
had  outraced  the  previous  summer.  Mokhov 
moved  a  chair  up  for  the  officer,  and  turned 
back  to  Grigory. 

"Has  your  father  come  down  in  the  world, 
that  he  is  putting  his  son  out  to  work?"  he  in- 
quired, 

"I'm  not  living  with  him  any  more," 

"Left  him?" 

"Yes." 

"Well,  I'd  gladly  take  you  on.  I  know  your 
family  to  be  a  hard-working  lot,  but  I'm  afraid 
I  haven't  any  work  for  you  to  do." 

"What's  the  matter?"  Listnitsky  inquired, 
pulling  his  chair  up  to  the  table. 

"This  lad  is  looking  for  work." 

"Can  you  look  after  horses?  Can  you  drive 
a  team?"  the  officer  asked  as  he  stirred  his  tea. 

276 


"I  can.  I've  had  the  care  of  our  own  six 
horses." 

"I  want  a  coachman.  What  are  your  terms?" 

"I'm  not  asking  for  much." 

"In  that  case  come  to  my  father  at  our  estate 
tomorrow.  You  know  the  house?  At  Yagodnoye, 
about  twelve  versts  from  here."  i 

"Yes,  I  know  it." 

"Then  come  tomorrow  morning  and  we  shall 
settle  the  matter." 

Grigory  went  to  the  door.  As  he  turned  the 
handle  he  hesitated,  and  said:  "I'd  like  to  have 
a  word  with  you  in  private.  Your  Honour." 

Listnitsky  followed  Grigory  out  into  the  semi- 
darkness  of  the  passage.  A  rosy  light  filtered 
dimly  through  the  Venetian  glass  of  the  door 
leading  to  the  balcony. 

"Well,  what  is  it?" 

"I'm  not  alone.  . .  ."  Grigory  flushed  darkly. 
"I've  got  a  woman  with  me. . .  .  Perhaps  you 
can  find  something  for  her  to  do?" 

"Your  wife?"  Listnitsky  inquired,  smiling  and 
raising  his  eyebrows. 

"Someone  else's." 

"Oh,  I  see.  All  right,  we'll  fix  her  up  as  cook 
for  the  servants.  But  where  is  her  husband?" 

"Here  in  the  village." 

"So  you've  stolen  another  man's  wife?" 

"She  wanted  to  come." 

277 


"A  romantic  affair!  Well,  come  along  tomor- 
row. You  may  go  now." 

Grigory  arrived  at  Yagodnoye  at  about  eight 
the  next  morning.  The  house  was  surrounded 
by  a  peeling  brick  and  plaster  wall.  Outbuild- 
ings straggled  over  the  big  yard:  a  wing  with 
a  tiled  roof,  the  date  1910  picked  out  with  tiles 
of  a  different  colour;  the  servants'  quarters,  a 
bath-house,  stables,  poultry-house  and  cattle- 
shed,  a  long  barn  and  coach-house. 

The  house  was  large  and  old,  and  nestled  in 
an  orchard.  Beyond  it  rose  a  grey  wall  of  bare 
poplars  and  the  meadow  willows,  empty  rooks' 
nests  swinging  in  their  brown  tops. 

As  he  entered  the  yard  Grigory  was  welcomed 
by  a  pack  of  Crimean  borzois.  An  old  bitch, 
rheumy-eyed  and  lame,  was  the  first  to  sniff  at 
him  and  follow  him  with  drooping  head.  In  the 
servants'  quarters  a  cook  was  quarrelling  with 
a  young,  freckled  maid.  A  thick-lipped  old  gaf- 
fer was  sitting  in  a  cloud  of  tobacco  smoke  on 
the  door-step.  The  maid  conducted  Grigory  to 
the  house.  The  hall  reeked  of  dogs  and  uncured 
pelts.  On  a  table  lay  the  case  of  a  double-bar- 
relled gun  and  a  game-bag  with  a  frayed  green 
silk  fringe. 

"The  young  master  will  see  you,"  the  maid 
called  to  Grigory  through  a  side  door. 

Grigory  glanced  apprehensively  at  his  muddy 

27B 


boots,  and  entered.  Listnitsky  was  lying  on  a 
bed  next  to  the  window.  On  the  eider-down  was 
a  box  containing  tobacco  and  smoking  utensils. 
The  officer  made  himself  a  cigarette,  buttoned 
up  the  collar  of  his  white  shirt,  and  remarked: 

"You're  in  good  time.  Wait,  my  father  will 
be  here  in  a  minute." 

Grigory  stood  by  the  door.  Presently  he  heard 
the  sound  of  footsteps  in  the  ante-room,  and  a 
deep  bass  voice  asked  through  the  door:  "Are 
you  asleep,  Yevgeny?" 

"Come  in." 

An  old  man  wearing  black  Caucasian  felt 
boots  entered.  Grigory  gave  him  a  sideways 
glance.  He  was  immediately  struck  by  the  thin 
crooked  nose  and  the  white  arch  of  his  mous- 
tache, stained  yellow  by  tobacco  under  the  nose. 
Old  Listnitsky  was  tall  and  broad-shouldered, 
but  gaunt.  He  wore  a  long  camel-hair  tunac 
that  hung  loosely,  the  collar  encircling  his 
brown  wrinkled  neck  like  a  noose.  His  faded 
eyes  were  set  close  to  the  bridge  of  his  nose. 

"Papa,  here's  the  coachman  I  spoke  to  you 
about.  The  lad's  from  a  decent  family." 

"Whose  son  is  he?"  the  old  man  asked  in  a 
booming  voice. 

"Melekhov's." 

"Which  Melekhov's?" 

"Pantelei  Melekhov's." 

279 


"I  knew  Prokofy,  I  remember  Pantelei  too. 
Lame,  isn't  he?" 

"Yes,  Your  Excellency,"  Grigory  replied,  com- 
ing stiffly  to  attention.  He  recalled  his  father's 
stories  of  the  retired  General  Listnitsky,  a  hero 
of  the  Russo-Turkish  war. 

"Why  are  you  seeking  work?"  the  old  man 
inquired. 

"I'm  not  living  with  my  father.  Your  Excel- 
lency." 

"What  sort  of  Cossack  will  you  make  if  you 
hire  yourself  out?  Didn't  your  father  provide 
for  you  when  you  left  him?" 

"No,  Your  Excellency." 

"Hm,  that's  another  matter.  You  want  work 
for  your  wife  as  well?" 

The  younger  Listnitsky's  bed  creaked  heavily. 
Grigory,  glancing  in  his  direction,  saw  the  of- 
ficer winking  and  nodding  his  head. 

"That's  right.  Your  Excellency." 

"None  of  your  'excellencies.'  I  don't  like  them. 
Your  wage  will  be  eight  rubles  a  month.  For 
both  of  you.  Your  wife  will  cook  for  the  serv- 
ants and  seasonal  workers.  Is  that  satisfac- 
tory?" 

"Yes." 

"Move  in  tomorrow  morning.  You'll  occupy 
the  previous  coachman's  quarters." 

"How  did  the  hunting  go  yesterday?"  List- 

280 


nitsky  asked  his  father,  lowering  his  narrow 
feet  on  to  the  carpet. 

"We  started  a  fox  out  of  the  gully  at  Gremya- 
chy  and  chased  it  as  far  as  the  woods,  but  it 
was  an  old  one  and  fooled  the  dogs." 

"Is  Kazbek  still  limping?" 

"He  must  have  sprained  his  foot.  Hurry  up, 
Yevgeny,  breakfast  is  getting  cold." 

The  old  man  turned  to  Grigory  and  snapped 
his  bony  fingers. 

"Quick  march!  Be  here  at  eight." 

Grigory  went  out.  On  the  far  side  of  the  bam 
the  borzois  were  sunning  themselves  on  a  patch 
of  ground  bare  of  snow.  The  old  bitch  with  the 
rheumy  eyes  trotted  up  to  Grigory,  sniffed  at 
him  from  behind  and  followed  him  a  little  way 
with  head  still  drooping  mournfully,  then 
turned  back. 

XII 

Aksinya  had  finished  her  cooking  early.  She 
banked  up  the  fire,  washed  the  dishes,  and 
glanced  out  of  the  window  looking  on  to  the 
yard.  Stepan  was  standing  by  the  wood-pile 
close  to  the  fence  bordering  on  the  Melekhovs' 
yard.  A  half-smoked  cigarette  hung  from  the 
corner  of  his  firm  lips.  The  left-hand  corner  of 
the  shed  was  tumbling  down,  and  he  was  select- 
ing posts  suitable  for  its  repair. 

281 


Aksinya  had  arisen  with  two  rosy  blushes 
in  her  cheeks  and  a  youthful  glitter  in  her  eyes. 
Stepan  noticed  the  change,  and  as  he  was  hav- 
ing breakfast  he  could  not  forbear  to  ask: 
"What's  happened  to  you?" 

"What's  happened?"  Aksinya  echoed  him, 
flushing. 

"Your  face  is  shining  as  though  you  had 
smeared  yourself  with  oil." 

"It's  the  heat  of  the  fire."  And  turning  away 
she  glanced  stealthily  out  of  the  window  to  see 
whether  Misha  Koshevoi's  sister  was  coming. 

But  the  girl  did  not  arrive  until  late  in  the 
afternoon.  Tormented  with  waiting,  Aksinya 
started  up: 

"Do  you  want  me,  Mashutka?" 

"Come  out  for  a  moment." 

Stepan  was  standing  before  a  scrap  of  mirror 
fixed  into  the  whitewashed  stove,  combing  his 
forelock  and  chestnut  moustache  with  a  stumpy 
ox-horn  comb.  Aksinya  looked  at  him  nervously. 

"You  aren't  going  out,  are  you?" 

He  did  not  answer  immediately,  but  put  the 
comb  into  his  trouser  pocket,  and  picked  up  a 
pack  of  cards  and  his  tobacco  pouch  which  were 
lying  on  the  stove  ledge.  Then  he  said:  "I'm 
going  along  to  Anikushka's  for  a  while." 

"And  when  are  you  ever  at  home?  You  spend 
every  night  at  cards.  And  all  night,  too." 

282 


"All  right,  I've  heard  that  before." 

"Are  you  going  to  play  pontoon  again?" 

"Oh,  drop  it,  Aksinya.  Look,  there's  someone 
coming  to  see  you." 

Aksinya  sidled  out  into  the  passage.  The 
freckled,  rosy-faced  Mashutka  welcomed  her 
with  a  smile. 

"Grisha's  back." 

"Well?" 

"He  told  me  to  tell  you  to  come  along  to  our 
house  as  soon  as  it's  dark." 

Seizing  the  girl's  hand,  Aksinya  drew  her  to- 
wards the  outer  door. 

"Softer,  softer,  dear!  Did  he  tell  you  to  say 
anything  else?" 

"He  said  you're  to  get  your  things  together 
and  take  them  along." 

Burning  and  trembling,  unable  to  keep  her 
feet  still,  Aksinya  turned  and  glanced  at  the 
kitchen  door. 

"Lord,  how  am  I  to. ...  So  quickly?  Well  .  .  . 
wait.  Tell  him  I'll  be  along  as  soon  as  I  can. 
But  where  will  he  meet  me?" 

"You're  to  come  to  our  house." 

"Oh,  no!" 

"All  right,  I'll  tell  him  to  come  out  and  wait 
for  you." 

Stepan  was  drawing  on  his  coat  as  Aksinya 
went  in. 

283 


"What  did  she  want?"  he  asked  between  two 
puffs  at  a  cigarette. 

"Who?" 

"The   Koshevois'   girl." 

"Oh,  she  came  to  ask  me  to  cut  out  a  skirt 
for  her," 

Blowing  the  ash  off  his  cigarette,  Stepan  went 
to  the  door. 

"Don't  wait  up  for  me,"  he  said  as  he  went 
out. 

Aksinya  ran  to  the  frosted  window  and 
dropped  to  her  knees  before  the  bench.  Stepan's 
footsteps  sounded  along  the  path  trodden  out  in 
the  snow  to  the  gate.  The  wind  caught  a  spark 
from  his  cigarette  and  carried  it  back  to  the 
window.  Through  the  melted  circle  of  glass  Ak- 
sinya caught  a  glimpse  of  his  fur  cap  and  the 
outline  of  his  swarthy  cheek. 

Feverishly  she  turned  jackets,  skirts  and  ker- 
chiefs-her  dowry-out  of  the  great  chest  and 
threw  them  into  a  large  shawl.  Panting  and 
wild-eyed,  she  passed  through  the  kitchen  for 
the  last  time,  and  putting  out  the  light,  ran  on 
to  the  steps.  Someone  emerged  from  the  Mele- 
khovs'  house  to  see  to  the  cattle.  She  waited  un- 
til the  footsteps  had  died  away,  fastened  the 
door  by  the  chain,  then  ran  down  to  the  Don. 
Strands  of  hair  escaped  from  her  kerchief  and 
tickled  her  cheeks,  and  as  she  made  her  way  by 

284 


side  lanes  to  the  Koshevois'  hut,  clutching  her 
bundle,  her  strength  ebbed  and  her  feet  dragged 
leadenly,  Grigory  was  waiting  for  her  at 
the  gate.  He  took  the  bundle  and  silently  led  the 
way  into  the  steppe. 

Beyond  the  threshing-floor  Aksinya  slowed 
her  pace  and  caught  at  Grigory's  sleeve.  "Wait 
a  moment,"  she  said. 

"What  for?  The  moon  will  be  late  tonight,  we 
must  hurry." 

"Wait,  Grisha!"  She  halted,  doubled  up  with 
pain, 

"What's  the  matter?"  Grigory  turned  back  to 
her. 

"Something  . .  ,  inside  me.  I  must  have  lifted 
something  heavy."  She  licked  her  dry  lips, 
screwing  up  her  eyes  in  pain  till  she  saw  pin- 
points of  fire,  and  clutched  at  her  belly.  She 
stood  a  moment,  bowed  and  miserable,  and 
then,  poking  her  hair  under  her  kerchief,  set  off 
again. 

"I'm  all  right  now,  come  along." 

"You  haven't  even  asked  where  I'm  taking 
you  to.  I  might  be  leading  you  to  the  nearest 
cliff  to  push  you  over,"  Grigory  said  smiling 
in  the  darkness. 

"It's  all  the  same  to  me  now.  I  can't  go  back." 
Her  voice  trembled  with  an  unhappy  laugh. 

That  night  Stepan  returned    at  midnight    as 

285 


usual.  He  went  first  to  the  stable,  threw  the 
scattered  hay  back  into  the  manger,  removed 
the  horse's  halter,  then  went  to  the  house.  "She 
must  have  gone  out  for  the  evening,"  he 
thought,  as  he  unfastened  the  chain.  He  entered 
the  kitchen,  closed  the  door  fast,  and  struck  a 
match.  He  had  been  in  a  winning  vein  that 
evening,  and  so  was  quiet  and  drowsy.  He  lit 
the  lamp,  and  gaped  at  the  disorder  of  the  kitch- 
en, not  guessing  the  reason,  A  little  aston- 
ished, he  went  into  the  best  room.  The  open 
chest  yawned  blackly.  On  the  floor  lay  an  old 
jacket  which  Aksinya  had  forgotten  in  her  hur- 
ry. Stepan  tore  off  his  sheepskin  and  ran  back 
to  the  kitchen  for  the  light.  He  stared  around 
the  best  room,  and  at  last  he  understood.  He 
dropped  the  lamp,  and,  scarcely  aware  of  what 
he  was  doing,  tore  his  sabre  from  the  wall, 
gripped  the  hilt  until  the  veins  swelled  in  his 
fingers,  raised  Aksinya's  blue  and  yellow  jacket 
on  its  point,  threw  the  jacket  up  in  the  air  and 
with  a  short  swing  of  the  sabre  slashed  it  in 
two  as  it  fell. 

Grey,  savage  in  his  wolfish  grief,  he  threw  the 
pieces  of  the  old  jacket  up  to  the  ceiling  again 
and  again;  the  sharp  steel  whistled  as  it  cut 
them  in  their  flight. 

Then,  tearing  off  the  sword-knot,  he  threw 
the  sabre  into  a  corner,  went  into  the  kitchen, 

286 


and  sat  down  at  the  table.  His  head  bowed, 
with  trembling  iron  fingers  he  sat  stroking  the 
unwashed  table-top. 

XIII 

Troubles  never  come  singly.  The  morning 
after  Grigory  left  home,  through  Het-Baba's 
carelessness  Miron  Korshunov's  pedigree  bull 
gored  the  throat  of  his  finest  mare.  Het-Baba 
came  running  into  the  house,  white,  distracted 
and  trembling: 

"Trouble,  master!  The  bull,  curse  him,  the 
damned  bull. . . ." 

"Well,  what  about  the  bull?"  Miron  asked  in 
alarm. 

"He's  done  the  mare  in.  Gored  her.  . .  ." 

Miron  ran  half-dressed  into  the  yard.  By 
the  well  Mitka  was  beating  the  red  five-year- 
old  bull  with  a  stake.  The  bull,  his  head  down 
and  dewlap  dragging  over  the  ground,  was 
churning  up  the  snow  with  his  hoofs  and  scat- 
tering a  silvery  powder  around  his  tail.  Instead 
of  yielding  before  the  drubbing,  he  bellowed 
huskily  and  stamped  his  hind-feet  as  though 
about  to  charge.  Mitka  beat  him  on  his  nose 
and  sides,  cursing  the  while  and  paying  no 
heed  to  Mikhei,  who  was  trying  to  drag  him 
back  by  his  belt, 

287 


"Keep  back,  Mitka  ...  for  Lord's  sake. 
He'll  gore  you!  Master,  why  don't  you  tell 
him?" 

Miron  ran  to  the  well.  The  mare  was  stand- 
ing by  the  fence,  her  head  drooping  sadly.  Her 
dark  heaving  flanks  were  wet  with  sweat,  and 
blood  was  running  down  her  chest.  Her  light- 
bay  back  and  sides  were  quivering,  causing 
great  shivers  in  her  groin, 

Miron  ran  to  look  at  her  front.  A  rose-col- 
oured wound,  big  enough  to  take  a  man's  hand, 
and  revealing  the  windpipe,  gaped  in  her  neck. 
Miron  seized  her  by  the  forelock  and  raised  her 
head.  The  mare  fixed  her  glittering  violet  eyes 
on  her  master  as  though  mutely  asking:  "What 
next?"  And  as  if  in  answer  to  the  question  Mi- 
ron shouted:  "Run  and  tell  someone  to  scald 
some  oak  bark.  Hurry!" 

Het-Baba,  his  Adam's  apple  trembling  in  his 
dirty  neck,  ran  to  strip  some  bark  from  a  tree, 
and  Mitka  came  across  to  his  father,  one  eye 
fixed  on  the  bull  circling  and  bellowing  about 
the  yard. 

"Hold  the  mare  by  her  forelock,"  his  father 
ordered.  "Someone  run  for  some  twine.  Quick! 
Or  do  you  want  a  box  on  the  ears?" 

They  tied  the  string  tightly  round  the  mare's 
velvety,  slightly  hairy  upper  lip  so  that  she 
should  not  feel  the  pain. 

288 


Old  Grishaka  came  hobbling  up.  An  infu- 
sion, the  colour  of  acorns,  was  brought  out  in 
a  painted  bowl. 

"Cool  it  down,"  he  croaked.  "It's  too  hot, 
isn't  it?  Miron,  do  you  hear  me?" 

"Go  inside.  Dad.  You'll  catch  cold  out  here." 

"I  tell  you  to  cool  it  down.  Do  you  want  to 
kill  the  mare?" 

The  wound  was  bathed.  With  freezing  fin- 
gers Miron  threaded  raw  twine  through  a  darn- 
ing needle  and  sewed  up  the  edges,  making  a 
neat  seam.  He  had  hardly  turned  away  to  go 
back  to  the  house  when  his  wife  came  running 
from  the  kitchen,  alarm  written  large  on  her 
flabby  cheeks.  She  called  her  husband  aside: 

"Natalya's  here,  Miron. .  .!  Oh,  my  God!" 

"Now  what's  the  matter?"  Miron  demanded, 
his  face  paling. 

"It's  Grigory.  He's  left  home!"  Lukinichna 
flung  out  her  arms  like  a  rook  preparing  for 
flight,  clapped  her  hands  against  her  skirt,  and 
broke  into  a  wail: 

"Disgraced  before  the  whole  village!  Lord, 
what  a  blow!  Oh. . ,!" 

Miron  found  Natalya  in  a  shawl  and  short 
winter  coat  standing  in  the  middle  of  the 
kitchen.  Two  tears  welled  in  her  eyes,  and  her 
cheeks  were  deeply  flushed. 

19-1933  289 


"What  are  you  doing  here?"  her  father  blus- 
tered as  he  ran  into  the  room.  "Has  your  hus- 
band beaten  you?  Can't  you  get  on  together?" 
"He's  gone  away!"  Natalya  groaned,  swal- 
lowing dry  tears,  and  she  swayed  and  fell  on 
her  knees  before  her  father.  "Father,  my  life 
is  ruined. .  . .  Take  me  back.  .  , .  Grigory's  gone 
away  with  that  woman.  He's  left  me.  Father, 
I've  been  crushed  into  the  dust!"  she  sobbed 
out  the  half-finished  phrases,  gazing  imploring- 
ly up  at  her  father's  ruddy  beard. 
"Wait,  wait  now,  .  . ." 

"There's  nothing  for  me  to  live  for  there! 
Take  me  back!"  She  crawled  on  her  knees  to 
the  chest  and  dropped  her  head  on  to  her  arms. 
Her  kerchief  slipped  off  her  head  and  her  smooth 
straight  black  hair  fell  over  her  pale  ears.  Tears 
at  such  a  time  are  like  rain  in  a  May  drought. 
Her  mother  pressed  Natalya's  head  against  her 
sunken  belly,  whispering  motherly  foolish 
words  of  comfort;  but  Miron,  infuriated,  ran 
out  to  the  steps, 

"Harness  up  two  sleighs!"  he  shouted. 
On  the  steps  a  cock,  perched  busily  on  the 
back  of  a  hen,  took  fright  at  the  shout,  jumped 
clear,  and  stalked  off  towards  the  bam,  squawk- 
ing indignantly. 

"Harness  up    two    sleighs!"    Miron    kicked 
again  and  again  at  the  fretted  balustrade  of  the 

290 


steps  until  it  was  hopelessly  ruined.  He  re- 
turned to  the  house  only  when  Het-Baba  hurried 
out  from  the  stables  with  a  pair  of  horses, 
harnessing  them  as  he  ran. 

Mitka  and  Het-Baba  drove  to  the  Melekhovs' 
for  Natalya's  possessions.  In  his  abstraction 
Het-Baba  sent  a  young  pig  in  the  road  flying. 
"Mebbe  the  master  will  forget  all  about  the 
mare  now,"  he  was  thinking,  and  rejoiced,  let- 
ting the  reins  hang  loose.  "But  he's  such  an 
old  devil,  he'll  never  forget,"  and  sneering  to 
himself,  Het-Baba  tried  to  get  the  whip  lash 
under  the  tenderest  part  of  the  horse's  belly. 

XIV 

Yevgeny  Listnitsky  held  a  commission  as 
lieutenant  in  the  Ataman's  Lifeguards  Regiment. 
Having  had  a  tumble  during  the  officers'  hurdle 
races  and  broken  his  left  arm,  he  took  furlough 
when  he  came  out  of  hospital  and  went  to  stay 
with  his  father  for  six  weeks. 

The  old  general  lived  alone  at  Yagodnoye. 
He  had  lost  his  wife  while  driving  in  the  sub- 
urbs of  Warsaw  in  the  1880's.  Shots  fired  at 
the  Cossack  general  had  missed  him,  but  rid- 
dled the  carriage,  killing  his  wife  and  coach- 
man. Listnitsky  was  left  with  his  two-year-old 
son  Yevgeny.   Soon   after  this    event  the  gen- 

19*  291 


eral  retired,  abandoned  an  estate  of  ten  thou- 
sand acres  in  the  Saratov  Province  which  had 
been  granted  to  his  great-grandfather  in  recog- 
nition of  his  services  during  the  war  of  1812, 
and  moved  to  Yagodnoye,  where  he  lived  an 
austere  and  rigorous  life.  i 

He  sent  his  son  Yevgeny  to  the  cadets'  corps 
as  soon  as  the  lad  was  old  enough,  and  oc- 
cupied himself  with  farming.  He  purchased 
blood  stock  from  the  imperial  stables,  crossed 
them  with  the  finest  mares  from  England  and 
from  the  famous  Provalsky  stables,  and  reared 
a  new  breed.  He  raised  cattle  and  livestock 
on  his  own,  and  bought  land,  sowed  grain 
(with  hired  labour),  hunted  with  his  borzois  in 
the  autumn  and  winter,  and  occasionally  locked 
himself  in  the  dining  hall  and  drank  for 
weeks  on  end.  He  was  troubled  with  a  stomach 
complaint,  and  his  doctor  had  strictly  forbid- 
den him  to  swallow  anything  solid;  he  had 
to  extract  the  goodness  from  all  his  food  by 
mastication,  spitting  out  the  residue  on  to 
a  silver  tray  held  by  his  personal  servant 
Venyamin. 

Venyamin  was  a  half-witted,  swarthy  young 
peasant,  with  a  shock  of  thick  black  hair.  He 
had  been  in  Listnitsky's  service  for  six  years. 
When  he  first  had  to  wait  on  the  general  it 
made    him    feel   sick   to    watch  the    old    man 

202 


spitting  out  the  chewed  food.  But  he  got 
used  to  it. 

The  other  inhabitants  of  the  estate  were  the 
cook  Lukerya,  the  ancient  stableman  Sashka, 
and  the  shepherd  Tikhon.  From  the  very  first 
the  flabby  pock-marked  Lukerya,  who  with  her 
huge  bottom  looked  like  a  yellow  lump  of  un- 
risen  dough,  would  not  allow  Aksinya  near  the 
stove. 

"You  can  cook  when  the  master  takes  on  ex- 
tra workers  in  the  summer.  Now  I  can  manage 
by  myself," 

Aksinya  was  set  to  work  washing  the  floors 
of  the  house  three  times  a  week,  feeding  the 
innumerable  fowls,  and  keeping  the  fowl-house 
clean.  She  worked  with  a  will,  trying  to  please 
everyone,  even  the  cook.  Grigory  spent  much 
of  his  time  in  the  spacious  log-built  stables 
with  Sashka  the  stableman.  The  old  man  was 
one  mass  of  grey  hair,  but  everybody  still  fa- 
miliarly called  him  "Sashka."  Probably  even 
old  Listnitsky,  for  whom  he  had  worked  more 
than  twenty  years,  had  forgotten  his  surname. 
In  his  youth  Sashka  had  been  the  coachman, 
but  as  he  grew  old  and  feeble  and  his  sight 
began  to  fail  he  was  made  stableman.  Stocky, 
covered  with  greenish-grey  hair  (even  the  hair 
on  his  hands  was  grey),  with  a  nose  that  had 
been  flattened  by  a  club  in  his  youth,  he  wore 

293 


an  everlasting  childish  smile  and  gazed  out  on 
the  world  with  blinking  artless  eyes.  The 
apostolic  expression  of  his  face  was  marred  by 
his  broken  nose  and  his  hanging  scarred  un- 
derlip. 

In  his  army  days  Sashka  had  once  got  drunk 
and  taken  by  mistake  a  swill  of  aqua  regia 
instead  of  vodka.  The  fiery  liquid  had  welded 
his  lower  lip  to  his  chin,  leaving  a  crooked 
glowing  pink  scar.  Sashka  was  fond  of  vodka, 
and  when  he  was  in  his  cups  he  would  strut 
about  the  yard  as  though  he  were  master. 
Stamping  his  feet,  he  would  stand  under  old 
Listnitsky's  bedroom  and  call  loudly  and 
sternly:  ' 

"Mikolai  'Lexeyevich!  Mikolai  Xexeyevich!" 

If  old  Listnitsky  happened  to  be  in  his  bed- 
room he  would  come  to  the  window. 

"You're  drunk,  you  good-for-nothing!"  he 
would  thunder. 

Sashka  would  hitch  up  his  trousers,  and 
wink  and  smile.  His  smile  danced  diagonally 
right  across  his  face,  from  his  puckered  left 
eye  to  the  pink  scar  trailing  from  the  right 
corner  of  his  mouth;  it  was  a  crooked  smile 
but  a  pleasant  one. 

"Mikolai  'Lexeyevich,  Your  Excellency,  I 
know  you!"  he  would  wag  his  lean,  dirty  finger 
threateningly. 

294 


"Go  and  sleep  it  off!"  his  master  would 
smile  pacifyingly,  twisting  his  drooping  mous- 
tache with  all  five  nicotine-stained  fingers. 

"You  can't  take  me  in!"  the  stableman 
would  laugh,  going  up  to  the  railings  of  the 
fence.  "Mikolai  'Lexeyevich,  you're  like  me. 
You  and  me-we  know  each  other  like  a  fish 
knows  water.  You  and  me,  we're  rich.  Ah!" 
Here  he  would  fling  his  arms  wide  open  to 
show  how  rich.  "We're  known  by  everybody, 
all  over  the  Don  District,  We, , . ."  Sashka's 
voice  would  suddenly  grow  mournful  and  in- 
gratiating: "Me  and  you-Your  Excellency, 
everything's  all  right,  only  we've  both  got  rot- 
ting noses," 

"Why  is  that?"  his  master  would  ask,  turn- 
ing purple  with  laughter  and  twitching  his 
moustache, 

"Through  vodka!"  Sashka  would  bark  out 
the  words,  blinking  rapidly  and  licking  his 
lips.  "Don't  drink,  Mikolai  'Lexeyevich,  or 
we'll  go  broke-you  and  me.  We'll  drink  every- 
thing away!" 

"Go  and  drink  this  away!"  old  Listnitsky 
would  throw  out  a  twenty-kopeck  piece,  and 
Sashka  would  catch  it  and  hide  it  in  his  cap, 
crying:  i 

"Well,  good-bye.  General," 

"Have  you    watered    the    horses    yet?"  his 

295 


master  would  ask  with  a  smile,  knowing  what 
was  coming. 

"Oh,  you  lousy  devil!  You  son  of  a  swine!" 
Sashka  would  turn  livid,  and  his  voice  would 
crack  with  anger.  "Sashka  forget  to  water  the 
horses?  Eh?  Even  if  I  was  dead  I'd  still  crawl 
for  a  pail  to  water  the  horses.  And  he 
thinks.  . , ." 

The  old  man  would  march  off  fuming  at  the 
undeserved  reproach,  cursing  and  shaking  his 
fist.  Everything  he  did  was  forgiven,  even 
drinking  and  his  familiarity  with  his  master. 
He  was  indispensable  as  a  stableman.  Winter 
and  summer  he  slept  in  the  stables,  in  an  empty 
stall.  He  was  stableman  and  horse-doctor;  he 
gathered  herbs  for  the  horses  in  the  spring, 
and  dug  up  medicinal  roots  in  the  steppe  and 
in  the  valleys.  Bunches  of  dried  herbs  hung 
high  up  on  the  stable  walls:  milfoil  to  cure 
heaves,  snake-eye  grass  as  an  antidote  for  ad- 
der-bite, blackleaf  for  the  feet,  a  small  white 
herb  that  grows  at  the  root  of  the  willow  to 
treat  sores,  and  many  other  little-known  rem- 
edies for  all  the  various  ailments  and  dis- 
eases of  horses. 

Winter  and  summer,  a  subtle  throat-tickling 
aroma  hung  like  a  fine-spun  web  about  the 
stall  in  which   Sashka   slept.   Hay  packed    as 

296 


hard  as  a  board,  covered  with  a  horse-cloth, 
and  his  coat,  smelling  of  horse  sweat,  served 
as  mattress  and  bedding  to  his  plank-bed.  The 
coat  and  a  sheepskin  were  all  the  old  man's 
worldly  goods. 

Tikhon,  a  huge,  dull-witted  Cossack,  lived 
with  Lukerya,  and  secretly  nursed  a  quite  need- 
less jealousy  of  her  and  Sashka,  Once  every 
month  he  would  take  the  old  man  by  the  but- 
ton of  his  greasy  shirt  and  lead  him  round  to 
the  back  of  the  house. 

"Old  man,  don't  you  set  your  cap  at  my 
woman," 

"That  depends  . . ."  Sashka  would  wink  sig- 
nificantly. 

"Keep  off  her!"  Tikhon  begged. 

"I  like  'em  pock-marked,  lad.  I  don't  need 
vodka  if  you  can  give  me  a  pock-marked 
wench.  The  more  pock-marked  they  are  the 
fonder  they  are  of  us  menfolk,  the  hussies." 

"You  ought  to  be  ashamed  of  yourself  at 
your  age, . . .  And  you  a  doctor,  too;  you  look 
after  the  horses,  you  know  all  the  secrets." 

"I  can  do  all  kinds  of  doctoring,"  Sashka 
persisted. 

"Keep  off  her,  grandad.  It's  wrong," 

"I'll  get  that  Lukerya  one  of  these  days,  lad, 
I'll  have  her,  my  lad.  You  can  say  good-bye 
to  Lukerya,  I'll  be  taking  her  away  from  you. 

297 


She's  like  a  currant  pie,  only  with  the  currants 
picked  out.  That's  the  kind  for  me!" 

"Don't  let  me  catch  you  or  I'll  kill  you!" 
Tikhon  would  say,  sighing  and  drawing  some 
copper  coins  out  of  his  pocket. 

And  so  it  went  on  month  after  month. 

Life  mouldered  away  in  a  sleepy  torpor  at 
Yagodnoye,  The  estate  lay  in  a  valley  remote 
from  all  frequented  roads,  and  from  the  autumn 
onward  all  communication  with  the  neigh- 
bouring villages  was  broken.  In  the  winter 
nights  the  wolf  packs  emerged  from  their  for- 
est lairs  and  terrified  the  horses  with  their 
howling.  Tikhon  used  to  go  to  the  meadow  to 
frighten  them  off  with  his  master's  double- 
barrelled  gun,  and  Lukerya,  wrapping  her 
ample  bottom  in  her  rough  blanket,  would 
wait  in  suspense  for  the  sound  of  the  shots,  her 
little  eyes  disappearing  into  her  greasy  pock- 
marked cheeks.  At  such  times  her  imagination 
transformed  the  ugly  bald-headed  Tikhon  into 
a  handsome  and  reckless  youth,  and  when  the 
door  of  the  servants'  quarters  slammed  and 
Tikhon  entered  in  a  cloud  of  steam,  she  made 
room  for  him  on  the  bed  and,  cooing  affec- 
tionately, warmly  embraced  her  frozen  mate. 

In  summer-time  Yagodnoye  hummed  till  late 
at  night  with  the  voices  of  labourers.  The  mas- 
ter sowed  some  forty  dessiatines  with  various 

298 


crops,  and  hired  labourers  to  harvest  them. 
Occasionally  Yevgeny  came  home,  and  would 
stroll  through  the  orchard  and  over  the  mead- 
ow, and  feel  bored.  The  mornings  he  spent 
fishing  in  the  pond.  Plump^chested  and  of  me- 
dium height,  he  wore  a  forelock  Cossack  fash- 
ion on  the  right  side  of  his  head.  His  officer's 
tunic  fitted  him  snugly. 

During  the  first  days  of  Grigory's  life  on  the 
estate  he  was  frequently  in  the  young  master's 
company.  One  day  Venyamin  came  smiling 
into  the  servants'  quarters  and,  bowing  his 
fuzzy  head,  announced: 

"The  young  master  wants  you,  Grigory." 

Grigory,  as  on  many  other  occasions,  went 
to  Yevgeny's  room  and  stood  at  the  door.  The 
master  pointed  to  a  chair.  Grigory  seated  him- 
self on  the  very  edge. 

"How  do  you  like  our  horses?" 

"They're  good  horses.  The  grey  is  fine." 

"Give  him  plenty  of  exercise,  but  don't  gal- 
lop him." 

"So  Grandad  Sashka  told  me." 

"What  about  Sturdy?" 

"The  bay?  He's  a  fine  horse.  Shoe's  loose 
though,  I'll  have  to  get  him  reshod." 

Screwing  up  his  piercing  grey  eyes,  the 
young  master  said:  "You  have  to  go  to  the 
training  camp  in  May,  don't  you?" 

299 


"Yes." 

"I'll  speak  to  the  ataman  about  it.  You  won't 
have  to  go." 

"Thank  you,  sir." 

There  was  a  momentary  silence.  Unbutton- 
ing the  collar  of  his  uniform,  Yevgeny  scratched 
his  womanishly  white  chest. 

"Aren't  you  afraid  of  Aksinya's  husband 
taking  her  from  you?" 

"He's  thrown  her  over;  he  won't  take  her 
back." 

"How  do  you  know?" 

"I  saw  one  of  the  men  from  the  village  the 
other  day  when  I  went  there  for  nails.  He  told 
me  Stepan  was  drinking  hard.  Says  he  doesn't 
want  Aksinya  any  more,  thinks  he'll  find  some- 
one hotter." 

"Aksinya's  a  fine-looking  woman,"  Listni- 
tsky  remarked  thoughtfully,  staring  over  Gri- 
gory's  head  with  something  licentious  in  his 
smile. 

"Not  bad,"  Grigory  agreed,  and  his  face 
clouded. 

Yevgeny's  furlough  was  nearly  over.  He  no 
longer  wore  a  sling  and  could  bend  his  arm 
freely. 

During  the  last  few  days  of  his  stay  Yev- 
geny spent  a  great  deal  of  his  time  in  Gri- 
gory's  room.    Aksinya     had  whitewashed    the 

300 


dirt-caked  walls,  scrubbed  the  window-frames, 
and  scoured  the  floor  with  broken  brick.  There 
was  a  feminine  warmth  and  cosiness  in  the 
cheerful  empty  little  room.  The  officer,  his 
short,  fashionably-out  coat  thrown  over  his 
shoulders,  chose  times  for  his  visits  when  Gri- 
gory  was  occupied  with  the  horses.  He  would 
first  go  into  the  kitchen,  stand  joking  with 
Lukerya  for  a  minute  or  two,  then  pass  into 
the  farther  room.  He  would  sit  down  on  a 
stool,  hunching  his  shoulders,  and  fix  a  shame- 
lessly smiling  gaze  on  Aksinya.  She  was 
embarrassed  by  his  presence,  and  the  knitting- 
needles  trembled  in  her  fingers. 

"Well,  Aksinya,  how  are  you  getting  on?" 
he  would  ask,  puffing  at  his  cigarette  until  the 
room  was  filled  with  blue  smoke. 

"Very  well,  thank  you."  Aksinya  would 
raise  her  eyes,  and  meeting  the  lieutenant's 
transparent  gaze,  silently  telling  of  his  desire, 
she  turned  crimson.  That  naked  stare  of  his 
was  unpleasant  and  annoying.  She  replied  dis- 
connectedly to  his  questions,  avoiding  his  eyes 
and  seeking  an  opportunity  to  leave  the  room. 

"I  must  go  and  feed  the  ducks  now," 

"There's  no  hurry.  The  ducks  can  wait,"  he 
smiled,  and  his  legs  trembled  in  his  tight  rid- 
ing breeches,  and  he  continued  to  ply  her  with 
questions  concerning  her  past    life,  using    the 

301 


deep  tones  of  his  voice,  which  was  like  his  fa- 
ther's and  pleading  lewdly  with  his  crystal- 
clear  eyes. 

When  Grigory  came  in,  the  fire  would  die 
out  of  Yevgeny's  eyes  and  he  would  offer  him 
a  cigarette,  leaving  soon  after. 

"What  did  he  want?"  Grigory  would  ask 
Aksinya,  not  looking  at  her. 

"How  should  I  know?"  Remembering  the 
officer's  look,  Aksinya  would  laugh  forcedly. 
"He  came  in  and  just  sat  there  like  this,  Gri- 
sha,"  (she  showed  him  how  Yevgeny  had  sat 
with  hunched  back)  "and  sat  and  sat  until  I 
was  sick  of  him." 

"Did  you  ask  him  in?"  Grigory's  eyes  would 
narrow  angrily, 

"What  do  I  need  him  for?" 

"You  watch  out,  or  I'll  kick  him  down  the 
steps  one  day." 

Aksinya  would  gaze  at  Grigory  with  a  smile 
on  her  lips,  and  not  be  sure  whether  he  was 
speaking  in  jest  or  earnest. 

XV 

The  winter  broke  up  during  the  fourth  week 
of  Lent.  Open  water  began  to  fringe  the  edges 
of  the  Don;  the  ice,  melting  from  the  top,  turned 
grey  and  swelled     spongily.    In    the    evening 

302 


a  low  murmur  came  from  the  hills,  indicating 
frost  according  to  the  time-honoured  saying, 
but  in  reality  the  thaw  was  already  on  its  way. 
In  the  morning  the  air  tingled  with  the  light 
frost,  but  by  noon  the  earth  was  bare  in 
patches,  and  in  the  nostrils  was  the  scent  of 
March,  of  the  frozen  bark,  of  cherry-trees,  and 
rotting  straw. 

Miron  Korshunov  took  his  time  preparing 
for  the  ploughing  season,  spending  the  length- 
ening days  in  the  shed  sharpening  the  teeth 
of  the  harrows  and  repairing  cartwheels.  Old 
Grishaka  usually  fasted  in  the  fourth  week  of 
Lent,  He  would  come  home  from  church,  blue 
with  cold,  and  complain  to  his  daughter-in- 
law  Lukinichna: 

"That  priest  makes  me  sick.  He's  no  good. 
He's  as  slow  with  the  service  as  a  carter  with 
a  load  of  eggs." 

"You'd  have  been  wiser  to  have  fasted  dur- 
ing Passion  Week,  it's  warmer  by  then." 

"Call  Natalya,"  he  replied.  "I'll  get  her  to 
make  me  a  pair  of  warmer  stockings." 

Natalya  still  lived  in  the  belief  that  Grigory 
would  return  to  her;  her  heart  longed  and 
waited  for  him,  and  would  not  listen  to  the 
warning  whisper  of  sober  reason.  She  spent 
the  nights  in  weary  yearning,  tossing  on  her 
bed,  crushed  by  her  undeserved  and  unexpect- 

303 


ed  shame.  Another  woe  was  now  added  to  the 
first,  and  she  awaited  its  sequel  in  cold  terror, 
fluttering  about  in  her  maiden  room  like  a 
wounded  lapwing  in  a  forest  glade.  From  the 
earliest  days  of  her  return  home  her  brother 
Mitka  had  begun  to  give  her  odd  glances,  and 
one  day,  catching  her  in  the  porch,  he  asked 
frankly : 

"Still  hankering  after  Grisha?" 

"What's  it  got  to  do  with  you?" 

"I  want  to  cheer  you  up." 

Natalya  glanced  into  his  eyes  and  was  terri- 
fied by  what  she  saw  there.  Mitka's  green  cat's 
eyes  glittered  and  their  slits  gleamed  greasily 
in  the  dim  light  of  the  porch.  Natalya  slammed 
the  door  and  ran  to  her  grandfather's 
room,  where  she  stood  listening  to  the  wild 
beating  of  her  heart.  The  next  day  Mitka  came 
up  to  her  in  the  yard.  He  had  been  tui^ning 
over  fresh  hay  for  the  cattle,  and  green  stalks 
of  grass  hung  from  his  straight  hair  and  his 
fur  cap,  Natalya  was  chasing  the  dogs  away 
from  the  pigs'  trough. 

"Don't  fret  yourself,  Natalya. . . ." 

"I'll  tell  Father,"  she  cried,  raising  her 
hands  to  protect  herself. 

"You're  an  idiot!" 

"Keep  away,  you  beast!" 

"What  are  you  shouting  for?" 

304 


"Go  away,  Mitka!  I'll  go  at  once  and  tell 
Father.  How  dare  you  look  at  me  like  that? 
Have  you  no  shame!  It's  a  wonder  the  earth 
doesn't  open  and  swallow  you  up." 

"Well,  it  doesn't,  does  it?"  Mitka  stamped 
with  his  boots  to  confirm  the  statement  and 
edged  up  to  her. 

"Don't  come  near  me,  Mitka!" 

"I  won't  now,  but  I'll  come  at  night.  By 
God,  I'll  come!" 

Trembling,  Natalya  left  the  yard.  That 
evening  she  made  her  bed  on  the  chest,  and 
took  her  younger  sister  to  sleep  with  her.  All 
night  she  tossed  and  turned,  her  burning  eyes 
seeking  to  pierce  the  darkness,  her  ears  alert 
for  the  slightest  sound,  ready  to  scream  the 
house  down.  But  the  silence  was  broken  only 
by  the  snores  of  Grishaka  sleeping  in  the  next 
room,  and  an  occasional  grunt  from  her  sister. 

The  thread  of  days  unwound  in  that  con- 
stant inconsolable  grief  that  only  women  know. 

Mitka  had  not  got  over  the  shame  of  his  re- 
cent attempt  at  marriage,  and  he  went  about 
morose  and  ill-tempered.  He  went  out  every 
evening  and  rarely  arrived  home  again  before 
dawn.  He  carried  on  with  women  who  liked 
to  amuse  themselves  while  their  husbands 
were  soldiering  and  went  to  Stepan  Astakhov's 
to  play  cards  for  stakes.   His  father    watched 

20—1933  305 


his  behaviour,  but  said  nothing  for  the    time 
being. 

Just  before  Easter,  Natalya  met  Pantelei 
Prokofyevich  outside  Mokhov's  shop.  He 
called  to  her: 

"Wait  a  moment!" 

She  halted.  Her  heart  felt  a  pang  of  yearn- 
ing as  she  saw  her  father-in-law's  face,  re- 
motely reminding  her  of  Grigory. 

"Why  don't  you  come  and  see  us  old  folks, 
sometimes?"  the  old  man  asked  her,  giving  her 
a  quick  look,  as  though  he  himself  had  been 
guilty  of  some  offence  against  her.  "The  wife 
misses  you.  .  .  .  Well,  how  are  you  getting  on?" 

Natalya  recovered  from  her  embarrassment. 
"Thank  you  . .  ."  she  said,  and  after  a  moment's 
hesitation  (she  wanted  to  say  "Father!"),  she 
added:  "Pantelei  Prokofyevich,  I've  been  very 
busy  at  home." 

"Our  Grisha  . ,  .  ah!"  the  old  man  shook  his 
head  bitterly.  "He's  let  us  down,  the  scoundrel. 
And  we  were  getting  on  so  well  together." 

"Oh  well.  Father,"  Natalya  answered  shrilly 
with  a  catch  in  her  voice.  "I  suppose  it  wasn't 
to  be." 

Pantelei  fidgeted  in  embarrassment  as  he 
saw  Natalya's  eyes  fill.  Her  lips  twisted  in  an 
effort  to  hold  back  her  tears, 

"Good-bye,  my  dear,"  he  said,  "Don't  grieve 

306 


over  him,  the  son  of  a  bitch!  He's  not  worth 
the  nail  on  your  little  finger.  Maybe  he'll  come 
back.  I'd  like  to  see  him.  I'd  like  to  get  at 
him." 

Natalya  walked  away  with  her  head  sunk  on 
her  breast.  Pantelei  stood  shifting  from  foot  to 
foot  as  though  about  to  break  into  a  run.  As 
she  turned  the  comer  Natalya  glanced  back; 
the  old  man  was  limping  across  the  square, 
leaning  heavily  on  his  stick. 

XVI 

As  spring  approached,  the  meetings  in  Stock- 
man's workshop  were  held  less  frequently. 
The  villagers  were  preparing  for  the  field 
work,  and  only  Ivan  Alexeyevich  the  engine- 
man  and  Knave  came  from  the  mill,  bringing 
David  with  them.  On  Maundy  Thursday  they 
gathered  at  the  workshop  in  the  early  evening. 
Stockman  was  sitting  on  his  bench,  filing  a 
silver  ring  made  from  a  fifty-kopeck  piece.  A 
sheaf  of  rays  from  the  setting  sun  streamed 
through  the  window,  forming  a  square  of  dusty 
yellowish-pink  light  on  the  floor.  The  engine- 
man  picked  up  a  pair  of  pincers  and  turned 
them  over  in  his  hand. 

"I  had  to  go  to  the  master  the  other  day  to 
ask  about  a  piston."  he  remarked,  "It  will  have 

20*  S07 


to  be  taken  to  Millerovo,  we  can't  mend  it 
here.  There's  a  crack  in  it  this  long."  Ivan 
Alexeyevich  measured  the  length  of  his  little 
finger. 

"There's  a  works  at  Millerovo,  isn't  there?" 
Stockman  said,  scattering  a  fine  silver  dust  as 
he  filed  the  coin. 

"A  steel  foundry.  I  had  to  spend  a  few  days 
there  last  year." 

"Many  workers?" 

"I  should  say  four  hundred  or  thereabouts." 

"And  what  are  they  like?"  Stockman's  tone 
was  deliberate. 

"They're  well  off.  They're  none  of  your 
pioletariat,  they're  muck." 

"Why  is  that?"  asked  Knave,  who  was  sit- 
ting next  to  Stockman,  his  stubby  fingers 
clasped  under  his  knees. 

David,  the  mill-hand,  his  hair  grey  with  flour 
dust,  padded  about  the  workshop,  listening 
with  a  smile  to  the  dry  rustle  of  the  shavings 
that  he  stirred  up  with  his  boots.  He  felt  as  if 
he  were  walking  along  a  ravine  deep  in  fallen 
scarlet  leaves  with  the  leaves  giving  easily  and 
the  damp  turf  springing  youthfully    underfoot. 

"Because  they're  too  well  off.  Each  has  his 
own  little  house,  his  wife,  and  every  comfort. 
And  a  good  half  of  them  are  Baptists  into  the 
bargain.  The  master  himself  is  their  preacher, 

308 


and  they  suck  one  another's  noses,  and  the  dirt 
on  them  is  so  thick  you  couldn't  scrape  it  off 
with  a  hoe." 

"Ivan  Alexeyevich,  what  are  these  Baptists?" 
asked  David,  pouncing  on  the  unfamiliar  word. 

"Baptists?  They  worship  God  in  their  own 
fashion.  A  kind  of  sect,  like  the  Old  Believers." 

"Every  fool  goes  crazy  in  his  own  fashion," 
added  Knave. 

"As  I  was  saying,  I  went  to  see  Sergei  Pla- 
tonovich,"  Ivan  Alexeyevich  continued  his 
story,  "and  Atyopin  was  there,  so  he  told  me 
to  wait  outside.  I  sat  down  and  waited  and 
heard  them  talking  through  the  door.  Mokhov 
was  saying  there-  was  going  to  be  a  war  with 
the  Germans  very  soon;  he  had  read  it  in  a  book. 
But  Atyopin  said  there  couldn't  be  a  war 
between  Germany  and  Russia." 

Ivan  Alexeyevich  so  cleverly  imitated  Atyo- 
pin's  lisp  that  David  let  out  a  short  laugh,  but, 
seeing  Knave's  sarcastic  expression,  immediate- 
ly shut  up. 

"  'There  can  be  no  war  with  Germany 
because  Germany's  feeding  on  our  grain,'  " 
Ivan  Alexeyevich  continued  to  report  the  con- 
versation he  had  overheard.  "Then  I  heard  a 
a  third  voice:  I  found  out  afterwards  it  was  the 
officer,  old  Listnitsky's  son.  'There  will  be  a 
war,'  he  said,  'between   Germany  and   France, 

309 


over  the  vineyards,  but  it  has  nothing  to  do 
with  us.'  What  do  you  think,  Osip  Davydovich?" 
Ivan  asked,  turning  to  Stockman. 

"I'm  no  good  at  prophecies,"  Stockman 
replied,  staring  fixedly  at  the  ring  in  his  out- 
stretched hand. 

"Once  they  do  start  we'll  have  to  be  in  it 
too.  Like  it  or  not,  they'll  drag  us  there  by  the 
hair,"  Knave  declared. 

"It's  like  this,  boys,"  Stockman  said,  gently 
taking  the  pincers  out  of  the  engineman's 
hands.  He  spoke  seriously,  evidently  intending 
to  explain  the  matter  thoroughly.  Knave  seated 
himself  comfortably  on  the  bench,  and  David's 
lips  shaped  into  an  "O,"  revealing  his  strong 
teeth.  In  his  concise  vivid  way  Stockman 
outlined  the  struggle  of  the  capitalist  states  for 
markets  and  colonies.  When  he  had  finished 
Ivan  Alexeyevich  asked  indignantly: 

"Yes,  but  where  do  we  come  in?" 

"Your  heads  will  ache  from  the  drunken 
orgies  of  others,"  Stockman  smiled. 

"Don't  talk  like  a  kid,"  Knave  said  sarcas- 
tically. "You  know  the  saying:  'When  masters 
quarrel,  the  peasants'  forelocks   shake.'  " 

"Humph,"  Ivan  Alexeyevich  frowned  as  if 
he  were  trying  to  break  down  some  great 
unyielding  lump  of  thought. 

"What's    that    Listnitsky    always    calling    on 

310 


Mokhov  for?  After  his  daughter,  eh?"  David 
asked. 

"The  Korshunov  brat  has  had  a  go  there 
already,"  Knave   interposed   maliciously. 

"Ivan  Alexeyevich,  can't  you  hear?  What's 
that  officer  nosing  around  there  for?"  David 
repeated. 

Ivan  Alexeyevich  started  as  if  he  had  been 
struck  behind  the  knees  with  a  whiplash. 

"Eh?  What  were  you  saying?" 

"He's  been  having  a  nap!  We're  talking 
about  Listnitsky." 

"He  was  on  his  way  to  the  station.  Yes,  and 
here's  some  more  news.  When  I  went  out  of 
the  house  I  saw  .  .  .  who  do  you  think?  Grigory 
Melekhov!  He  was  standing  outside  with  a 
whip  in  his  hand.  'What  are  you  doing  here, 
Grigory?'  I  says.  'Taking  Lieutenant  Listnitsky 
to  Millerovo  Station.'  " 

"He's  Listnitsky's  coachman,"  David  ex- 
plained. 

"Picking  the  crumbs  from  the  rich  man's 
table." 

"You're  like  a  dog  on  a  chain.  Knave,  you'd 
snarl  at  anyone," 

The  conversation  flagged.  Ivan  Alexeyevich 
rose  to  go. 

"Hurrying  off  to  service?"  Knave  got  in  g 
last  dig. 

9U 


"I  do  plenty  of  serving  every  day." 
Stockman    accompanied    his    guests    to    the 
gate,  then  locked  up  the  workshop   and  went 
into  the  house. 

The  night  before  Easter  Sunday  the  sky  was 
overcast  with  masses  of  black  cloud,  and  rain 
began  to  fall.  A  raw  darkness  weighed  on  the 
village.  At  dusk  the  ice  on  the  Don  began  to 
crack  with  a  protracted,  rolling  groan,  and 
squeezed  by  a  mass  of  broken  ice  the  first  floe 
emerged  from  the  water.  The  ice  broke  up  all 
at  once  over  a  stretch  of  four  versts,  and  drifted 
downstream.  The  floes  crashed  against  one 
another  and  against  the  banks,  while  in  the 
background  the  church  bell  rang  measuredly 
for  service.  At  the  first  bend,  where  the  Don 
sweeps  to  the  left,  the  ice  was  dammed  up. 
The  roar  and  clash  of  the  bumping  floes  reached 
the  village.  A  crowd  of  lads  had  gathered  in 
the  churchyard,  which  was  already  dotted  with 
puddles.  Through  the  open  doors  came  the 
muffled  tones  of  the  service,  and  lights  gleamed 
with  festive  brightness  in  the  latticed  windows, 
while  in  the  darkness  of  the  yard  the  lads 
tickled  and  kissed  the  girls,  and  whispered 
dirty  stories  to  one  another. 

The  churchwarden's  lodge  was  crowded  with 
Cossacks  from  villages  all  over  the  district. 
Weary  with  fatigue    and  the  stuffiness    of    the 

312 


room,  people  slept  on  benches,  even  on  the 
floor. 

Men  were  sitting  on  the  rickety  steps,  smok- 
ing and  talking  about  the  weather  and  the 
winter  crops. 

"When  will  your  lot  be  going  out  in  the 
fields?" 

"Should  be  moving  about  Thomas'  day,  I 
reckon." 

"That's  all  right  for  you,  the  land  round 
your  way  is  sandy." 

"Some  of  it  is,  this  side  of  the  gully  there's 
a  salt  marsh." 

"The  earth'll  get   plenty  of  moisture   now." 

"When  we  ploughed  last  year  it  was  like 
gristle,  hard  and  sticky  all  the  way  over." 

"Dunya,  where  are  you?"  a  high-pitched 
voice  called  from  the  steps  of  the  lodge. 

From  the  churchyard  gate  a  rough  throaty 
voice  could  be  heard  blustering:  "A  fine  place 
to  be  kissing,  you.  .  . .  Get  out  of  here,  you 
dirty  young  brats.  What  an  idea!" 

"Can't  you  find  a  partner  for  yourself?  Go 
and  kiss  the  bitch  in  our  yard,"  a  wobbly 
young  voice  retorted  from  the  darkness. 

"Bitch?!  I'll  learn  you.  .  .  ." 

A  squelchy  patter  of  running  feet,  a  rustle  of 
skirts. 

31^ 


Water  dripped  from  the  roof  with  a  glassy 
tinkle;  and  again  that  slow  voice,  clinging  as 
the  muddy  black  earth: 

"Been  trying  to  buy  a  plough  off  Prokhor, 
offered  him  twelve  rubles  but  he  won't  take  it. 
He  wouldn't  let  something  go  cheap,  not 
him.  .  .  ." 

From  the  Don  came  a  smooth  swishing,  rus- 
tling and  crunching,  as  though  a  buxom  wench, 
dressed-up  and  tall  as  a  poplar,  were  passing 
by,   her  great  skirts  rustling. 

At  midnight,  Mitka  Korshunov,  riding  a 
horse  bareback,  clattered  through  the  sticky 
darkness  up  to  the  church.  He  tied  the  bridle 
rein  to  the  horse's  mane,  and  gave  her  a  smack 
on  her  steaming  flanks.  He  listened  to  the 
squelch  of  the  hoofs  for  a  moment,  then,  adjust- 
ing his  belt,  he  went  into  the  churchyard.  In 
the  porch  he  removed  his  cap,  bent  his  head 
devoutly,  and  thrusting  aside  the  women, 
pressed  up  to  the  altar.  The  Cossacks  were 
crowded  in  a  black  mass  on  the  left;  on  the 
right  was  a  motley  throng  of  women.  Mitka 
found  his  father  in  the  front  row,  and  gripping 
him  by  the  elbow,  whispered  into  his  ear: 
"Father,  come  outside  for  a  moment." 

As  he  pushed  his  way  out  of  the  church 
through  the  dense  curtain  of  mingled  odours, 
Mitka's  nostrils  quivered.  He  was  overwhelmed 


I 


by  the  vapour  of  burning  wax,  the  odour  of 
women's  sweating  bodies,  the  sepulchral  stench 
of  clothes  brought  out  only  at  Christmas  and 
Easter  time,  and  the  smell  of  damp  leather, 
moth  balls,  and  the  windiness  of  fast-hungered 
bellies. 

In  the  porch  Mitka  put  his  mouth  close  to 
his  father's  ear  and  said:  "Natalya's  dying." 

XVII 

Grigory  returned  on  Palm  Sunday  from  his 
journey  with  Yevgeny  to  the  station.  He  found 
the  thaw  had  eaten  away  the  snow;  the  road 
had  broken  up  within  a  couple  of  days. 

At  a  Ukrainian  village  some  twenty-five 
versts  from  the  station  he  all  but  lost  his 
horses  as  he  was  crossing  a  stream.  He  had 
arrived  at  the  village  early  in  the  evening. 
During  the  previous  night  the  ice  had  broken 
up  and  started  moving,  and  the  stream,  swollen 
and  foaming  with  muddy  brown  water,  threat- 
ened the  streets.  The  inn  at  which  he  had 
stopped  to  feed  the  horses  on  the  way  out  lay 
on  the  farther  side  of  the  stream.  The  water 
might  easily  rise  still  higher  during  the  night, 
and  Grigory  decided  to  cross. 

He  drove  to  the  point  where  he  had  crossed 
the  ice  on  the  outward  journey,  and  found  the 

m 


stream  had  overflowed  its  banks.  A  piece  of 
fencing  and  half  a  cartwheel  were  eddying  in 
the  middle.  There  were  fresh  traces  oi  sledge 
runners  on  the  bare  sand  at  the  edge.  He  halt- 
ed the  sweating  foam-flecked  horses  and 
jumped  down  to  look  at  the  marks  more  closely. 
At  the  water's  edge  the  tracks  turned  a  little  to 
the  left  and  disappeared  into  the  stream.  He 
measured  the  distance  to  the  other  side  with 
his  eyes:  fifty  paces  at  the  most.  He  went  to 
the  horses  to  check  the  harness.  At  that  mo- 
ment an  aged  Ukrainian  came  towards  him 
from  the  nearest  hut. 

"Is  there  a  good  crossing  here?"  Grigory 
asked  him,  waving  his  reins  at  the  seething 
brown  flood. 

"Some  folk  crossed  there  this  morning." 

"Is  it  deep?" 

"No.  But  it  might  splash  into  your  sleigh." 

Grigory  gathered  up  the  reins,  and  holding 
his  knout  ready,  urged  on  the  horses  with  a 
curt,  imperative  command.  They  moved  unwill- 
ingly, snorting  and  snuffing  at  the  water.  Gri- 
gory cracked  his  whip  and  stood  up  on  the 
seat. 

The  bay  on  the  left  tossed  its  head  and 
suddenly  pulled  on  the  traces.  Grigory  glanced 
down  at  his  feet;  the  water  was  swirling  over 
the  front  of  the  sledge.  At  first  the  horses  were 

'316 


wading  up  to  their  knees,  but  suddenly  the 
stream  rose  to  their  breasts.  Grigory  tried  to 
turn  them  back,  but  they  refused  to  answer  the 
rein  and  began  to  swim  for  it.  The  tail  of  the 
sledge  was  swung  round  by  the  current,  and 
the  horses'  heads  were  forced  upstream.  The 
water  flowed  in  waves  over  their  backs,  and 
the  sledge  rocked  and  pulled  them  back 
strongly. 

"Hey!  Hey!  To  the  right!"  the  Ukrainian 
shouted,  running  along  the  bank  and  waving 
his  fur  cap. 

In  a  wild  fury  Grigory  kept  shouting  and 
urging  on  the  horses.  The  water  foamed  in 
eddies  behind  the  dragging  sledge.  The  runners 
struck  against  a  jutting  pile,  the  remains  of  the 
bridge  which  had  been  swept  away  over- 
night, and  the  sledge  turned  over  with  extra- 
ordinary ease.  With  a  gasp  Grigory  plunged  in 
head  first,  but  he  did  not  lose  his  grip  of  the 
reins.  While  he  was  tossed  about  by  the  rock- 
ing sledge,  the  water  dragged  at  his  legs  and 
the  skirts  of  his  sheepskin  with  gentle  insist- 
ence. He  succeeded  in  clutching  a  runner, 
dropped  the  reins,  and  hauled  himself  along 
hand  over  hand,  making  his  way  to  the 
swingle-tree.  He  was  about  to  seize  the  iron- 
shod  end  of  the  swingle-tree  when  the  bay,  in 
its  struggle  against  the  current,  lashed  out  with 

317 


its  hindleg  and  struck  him  on  the  knee.  Chok- 
ing, Grigory  threw  out  his  hands  and  caught  at 
the  traces.  He  felt  himself  being  dragged  away 
from  the  horses,  his  grip  weakened.  Every  fibre 
in  his  body  tingling  with  the  cold,  he  managed 
to  reach  the  horse's  head,  and  the  animal  fixed 
the  maddened,  mortally  terrified  gaze  of  its 
bloodshot  eyes  straight  into  his  dilated  pupils. 

Again  and  again  he  grasped  at  the  slippery 
leather  reins,  but  they  eluded  his  fingers. 
Somehow  he  managed  at  last  to  seize  them. 
Abruptly  his  legs  scraped  along  the  ground. 
Dragging  himself  to  the  edge  of  the  water,  he 
stumbled  forward  and  was  knocked  off  his  feet 
in  the  shallows  by  a  horse's  breast. 

Trampling  over  him,  the  horses  tugged  the 
sledge  violently  out  of  the  water  and,  exhaust- 
ed, halted  a  few  paces  away,  shuddering  and 
steaming.  Unconscious  of  any  pain,  Grigory 
jumped  to  his  feet;  the  cold  enveloped  him  as 
though  in  unbearably  hot  dough.  He  was 
trembling  even  more  than  the  horses,  and  felt 
as  weak  on  his  legs  as  an  unweaned  infant. 
Slowly  he  gathered  his  wits,  and  turning  the 
sledge  on  to  its  runners,  drove  the  horses  off 
at  a  gallop  to  get  them  warm.  He  flew  into  the 
street  of  the  village  as  though  attacking  an 
enemy,  and  turned  into  the  first  open  gate 
without  slackening  his  pace. 

318 


The  host  turned  out  to  be  a  hospitable 
Ukrainian;  he  sent  his  son  to  attend  to  the 
horses  and  himself  helped  Grigory  to  undress. 
In  a  tone  that  brooked  no  refusal  he  ordered 
his  wife  to  light  the  stove.  While  his  own 
clothes  were  drying  Grigory  stretched  himself 
out  on  top  of  the  stove  in  his  host's  trousers. 
After  a  supper  of  meatless  cabbage  soup  he 
went  to  sleep. 

He  set  off  again  long  before  dawn.  A  good 
hundred  and  thirty-five  versts'  driving  lay 
before  him,  and  every  minute  was  precious. 
The  untracked  confusion  of  the  flooded  spring 
steppe  was  at  hand;  the  melting  snow  had 
turned  every  little  ravine  or  gully  into  a  roar- 
ing torrent. 

The  black,  bare  road  exhausted  the  horses. 
Over  the  hard  surface  created  by  the  early 
morning  frost  he  reached  a  village  lying  four 
versts  off  his  route,  and  stopped  at  a  cross- 
road. The  horses  were  steaming  with  sweat; 
behind  him  lay  the  gleaming  track  of  the 
sledge  runners  in  the  ground.  He  abandoned 
the  sledge  and  set  off  again,  riding  one  horse 
bareback  and  leading  the  other  by  the  reins. 
He  arrived  at  Yagodnoye  in  the  morning  on 
Palm  Sunday. 

Old  Listnitsky  listened  attentively  to  his 
story  of  the  journey,  and  went  to  look  at  the 

319 


horses.  Sashka  was  leading  them  up  and  down 
the  yard,  angrily  eyeing  their  sunken  flanks. 

"How  are  they?"  the  master  asked.  "They 
haven't  been  overdriven,  have  they?" 

"No.  The  bay's  got  a  sore  on  his  chest  where 
his  collar  rubbed,  but  it's  nothing,"  Sashka  an- 
swered without  stopping  the  horses. 

"Go  and  get  some  rest,"  Listnitsky  motioned 
to  Grigory  with  his  hand.  Grigory  went  to  his 
room  but  he  had  only  one  night's  rest.  The 
next  morning  Venyamin  came  into  the  room  in 
a  new  sateen  shirt,  his  fat  face  beaming,  and 
called  to  him: 

"Grigory,  the  master  wants  you.  At  once." 

The  general  was  shuffling  about  the  hall  in 
felt  slippers.  Only  after  Grigory  had  coughed 
twice  did  he  look  up. 

"What  do  you  want?" 

"You  sent  for  me." 

"Ah,  yes!  Go  and  saddle  the  stallion  and  my 
horse.  Tell  Lukerya  not  to  feed  the  dogs. 
They're  going  hunting." 

Grigory  turned  to  leave  the  room.  His 
master  stopped  him  with  a  shout:  "D'you  hear? 
And  you're  going  with  me." 

Aksinya  thrust  a  cake  into  the  pocket  of 
Grigory's  coat  and  hissed:  "He  won't  even  let 
a  man  eat,  the  devil  take  him.  Put  on  your 
scarf  at  least,  Grisha." 

320 


Grigory  led  the  saddled  horses  to  the  fence, 
and  whistled  to  the  dogs.  Listnitsky  came  out, 
attired  in  a  jerkin  of  blue  cloth  and  girdled 
with  an  ornamental  leather  belt.  A  nickel- 
plated  flask  in  a  cork  case  was  slung  at  his 
back;  the  whip  hanging  from  his  arm  trailed 
behind  him  like  a  snake. 

As  he  held  the  bridle  for  his  master  to 
mount  Grigory  was  astonished  at  the  ease  with 
which  old  Listnitsky  hoisted  his  bony  body  into 
the  saddle.  "Keep  close  behind  me,"  the  gener- 
al curtly  ordered,  as  he  lovingly  gathered  the 
reins  in  his  gloved  hand. 

Grigory  rode  the  stallion.  Its  hind  hoofs 
were  not  shod,  and  as  it  trod  on  the  shards  of 
ice  it  slipped  and  sat  on  its  hind  quarters.  The 
old  general  sat  hunched  but  firm  in  the  saddle. 

The  horses  moved  on  at  a  good  pace.  The 
stallion  strained  at  the  bit  and  arched  its  short 
neck,  squinting  round  at  its  rider  and  trying  to 
bite  his  knees.  When  they  reached  the  top  of 
the  rise,  Listnitsky  put  his  horse  into  a  fast 
trot.  The  chain  of  hounds  followed  Grigory;  the 
old  black  bitch  ran  with  her  muzzle  touching 
the  end  of  the  stallion's  tail.  The  horse  tried  to 
reach  her  by  falling  back  on  its  hind  quarters, 
but  the  bitch  dropped  behind,  looking  up 
plaintively,  like  an  old  woman,  at  Grigory  as 
he  glanced  round. 

21—1933  321 


They  reached  their  objective,  the  Olshansky 
ravine,  in  half  an  hour.  Listnitsky  rode  through 
the  undergrowth  along  the  brow  of  the  slope. 
Grigory  dropped  down  into  the  rain-washed 
ravine,  cautiously  avoiding  the  numerous  pot- 
holes. From  time  to  time  he  looked  up,  and 
through  the  steely-blue  of  a  straggling  and 
naked  elder  grove  he  saw  Listnitsky's  clean-cut 
figure.  As  the  old  man  leaned  forward  and  rose 
in  his  stirrups,  his  blue,  belted  coat  wrinkled 
at  the  back.  Behind  him  the  hounds  were  run- 
ning in  a  bunch  along  the  undulating  ridge.  As 
he  rode  across  the  steep  watercourse  Grigory 
leaned  back  in  the  saddle. 

"I  could  do  with  a  smoke,"  he  thought,  "I'll 
let  go  of  the  reins  and  get  my  pouch."  Pulling 
off  his  glove,  Grigory  fumbled  in  his  pocket 
for  some  cigarette  paper. 

"After  him!"  the  shout  came  like  a  pistol 
shot  from  the  other  side  of  the  ridge. 

Grigory  looked  up  sharply,  smd  saw  Listni- 
tsky galloping  up  the  slope  with  upraised 
whip.  .  . . 

"After  him!" 

Slipping  along  with  body  close  to  the 
ground,  a  moulting  dirty-brown  wolf  was  run- 
ning swiftly  across  the  marshy  rush  and  reedy- 
grown  bottom  of  the  ravine.  Leaping,  a  gully,  it 
stopped  and  turned  quickly,  catching  sight  of 

322 


the  dogs.  They  were  coming  after  it  spread  out 
in  horseshoe  formation,  to  cut  it  off  from  the 
wood  at  the  end  of  the  ravine. 

With  a  springy  stride  the  wolf  leaped  on  to 
a  small  hillock  and  headed  for  the  wood.  The 
old  bitch  was  cutting  it  off,  husbanding  her 
strength  in  short  strides,  another  hound,  one  of 
the  best  and  fiercest  in  the  pack,  was  coming 
up  from  behind.  The  wolf  hesitated  for  a 
moment,  and  as  Grigory  rode  up  out  of  the 
ravine  he  lost  sight  of  it.  When  next  he  had  a 
good  view  from  the  hillock  the  wolf  was  far 
away  in  the  steppe,  making  for  a  neighbouring 
ravine.  Grigory  could  see  the  hounds  running 
through  the  undergrowth  behind  it,  and  old 
Listnitsky  riding  slightly  to  the  side,  belabour- 
ing his  horse  with  the  butt  of  his  whip.  As  the 
wolf  reached  the  ravine  the  hounds  began  to 
overtake  it,  and  one,  the  grizzled  hound  known 
as  Hawk,  seemed  to  hang  like  a  whitish  rag 
from  the  wolf's  loins. 

"After  him!"  the  shout  was  wafted  back  to 
Grigory. 

Grigory  put  his  horse  into  a  gallop,  vainly 
trying  to  see  what  was  happening  ahead  of 
him.  His  eyes  were  streaming  with  tears  and 
his  ears  were  stuffed  up  with  the  whistling 
wind.  He  was  suddenly  fired  by  the  excitement 
of  the  hunt.  Bending  over  his  horse's  neck,  he 

21*  323 


flew  along  at  a  mad  gallop.  When  he  reached 
the  ravine  neither  wolf  nor  dogs  were  to  be 
seen.  A  moment  or  two  later  Listnitsky  over- 
took him.  Reining  in  his  horse  sharply  he 
shouted : 

"Which  way  did  they  go?" 

"Into  the  ravine,  I  think." 

"You  overtake  them  on  the  left.  After  them!" 
The  old  man  dug  his  heels  into  his  horse's 
flanks  and  rode  off  to  the  right.  Grigory  dropped 
into  a  hollow,  and  with  whip  and  shout 
rode  his  horse  hard  for  a  verst  and  a  half.  The 
damp,  sticky  earth  flew  up  under  the  hoofs, 
striking  him  on  the  face.  The  long  ravine 
curved  to  the  right  and  branched  into  three. 
Grigory  crossed  the  first  fork,  and  then  caught 
sight  of  the  dark  chain  of  hounds  chasing  the 
wolf  across  the  steppe.  The  animal  had  been 
headed  off  from  the  heart  of  the  ravine,  which 
was  densely  overgrown  with  oaks  and  alders, 
and  was  now  making  for  a  dry  brush  and  this- 
tle-covered dell. 

Rising  in  his  stirrups,  and  wiping  the  tears 
from  his  wind-lashed  eyes  with  his  sleeve, 
Grigory  watched  them.  Glancing  momentarily 
to  the  left,  he  realized  that  he  was  in  the  steppe 
close  to  his  native  village.  Near  by  lay  the 
irregular  square  of  land  which  he  and  Natalya 
had  ploughed  in  the  autumn.  He  deliberately 

324 


guided  the  stallion  across  the  ploughed  land, 
and  during  the  few  moments  in  which  the 
animal  was  sliding  and  stumbling  over  the 
clods  the  zest  for  the  hunt  died  to  ashes  within 
him.  He  now  calmly  urged  on  the  heavily- 
sweating  horse,  and  glancing  round  to  see 
whether  Listnitsky  was  looking,  dropped  into 
an  easy  trot. 

Some  distance  away  he  could  see  the  desert- 
ed camping  quarters  of  the  ploughmen;  a  little 
farther  off  three  pairs  of  bullocks  were  drag- 
ging a  plough  across  the  fresh,  velvety  soil. 

From  our  village,  surely.  Whose  land  is  that? 
That's  not  Anikushka,  is  it?  Grigory  screwed 
up  his  eyes  trying  to  recognize  the  man  follow- 
ing the  plough. 

He  saw  two  Cossacks  drop  the  plough  and 
run  to  head  off  the  wolf  from  the  near-by 
ravine.  One,  in  a  peaked,  red-banded  cap,  the 
strap  under  his  chin,  was  waving  an  iron  bar. 
Suddenly  the  wolf  squatted  down  in  a  deep 
furrow.  The  foremost  hound  flew  right  over  it 
and  fell  with  its  forelegs  doubled  under  it;  the 
old  bitch  following  tried  to  stop,  her  hind 
quarters  scraping  along  the  cloddy,  ploughed 
ground;  but  unable  to  halt  in  time,  she  tumbled 
against  the  wolf.  The  hunted  animal  shook  its 
head  violently,  and  the  bitch  ricochetted  off  it. 
Now  the  mass  of  hounds  fastened  on  the  wolf, 

325 


and  they  all  dragged  for  some  paces  over  the 
ploughed  land.  Grigory  was  off  his  horse  half 
a  minute  before  his  master.  He  fell  to  his 
knees,  drawing  back  his  hunting  knife. 

"There!  In  the  throat!"  the  Cossack  with  the 
iron  bar  cried  in  a  voice  which  Grigory  knew 
well.  Panting  heavily,  he  dropped  down  at 
Grigory's  side,  and  dragging  away  the  hound 
which  had  fastened  on  the  hunted  animal's 
belly,  gripped  the  wolf's  forelegs  in  one  hand. 
Grigory  felt  under  the  animal's  shaggy  fur  for 
its  windpipe,  and  drew  the  knife  across  it. 

"The  dogs!  The  dogs!  Drive  them  off,"  old 
Listnitsky  croaked  as  he  dropped  from  the 
saddle. 

Grigory  with  difficulty  managed  to  drive 
away  the  dogs,  then  glanced  towards  his  mas- 
ter. Standing  a  little  way  off  was  Stepan  Asta- 
khov.  His  face  working  strangely,  he  was  turn- 
ing the  iron  bar  over  and  over  in  his  hands. 

"Where  are  you  from,  my  man?"  Listnitsky 
turned  to  Stepan. 

"From  Tatarsky,"  Stepan  answered  after  a 
momentary  hesitation,  and  took  a  step  in  Gri- 
gory's direction, 

"What's  your  name?"  Listnitsky  asked. 

"Astakhov." 

"When  are  you  going  home,  my  lad?" 

"Tonight." 

326 


Listnitsky  pointed  to  the  wolf  with  his  foot. 
The  animal's  jaws  were  snapping  feebly  in  its 
death  agony  and  one  of  its  hindlegs,  with  a 
brownish  tuft .  of  fur  sticking  to  it,  was  stiffly 
raised. 

"Bring  us  that  carcass,"  he  said.  "I'll  pay 
whatever  it  costs."  He  wiped  the  sweat  from 
his  purple  face  with  his  scarf,  turned  away, 
and  slipped  the  flask  off  his  back. 

Grigory  went  to  his  stallion.  As  he  set  foot 
in  the  stirrup  he  glanced  back.  Trembling 
uncontrollably,  Stepan  was  coming  towards 
him,  his  great,  heavy  fists  pressed  against  his 
chest. 

XVIII 

On  Good  Friday  night  the  women  gathered 
in  the  house  of  Korshunov's  neighbour,  Pela- 
geya  Maidannikova,  for  a  talk.  Her  husband 
Gavrila  had  written  from  Lodz  that  he  was 
trying  to  get  furlough  for  Easter.  Pelageya  had 
whitewashed  the  walls  and  tidied  up  the  hut 
as  early  as  the  Monday  before  Easter,  and 
from  Thursday  onward  she  waited  expectantly, 
running  to  the  gate  and  standing  at  the  fence, 
bare-headed  and  gaunt,  the  signs  of  her 
pregnancy  showing  in  her  face.  Shading  her 
eyes  with  her  palm  she  stared  down  the  road  to 
see    whether    he    was     coming.     Gavrila    had 

327 


returned  from  his  regiment  the  previous  year, 
bringing  his  wife  a  present  of  Polish  chintz.  He 
had  spent  four  nights  with  her,  and  on  the 
fifth  day  had  got  drunk,  cursed  in  Polish  and 
German,  and  with  tears  in  his  eyes  had  sat 
singing  an  old  Cossack  song  about  Poland  that 
dated  from  1831.  His  friends  and  brothers  had 
sat  with  him,  singing  and  drinking  vodka 
before  dinner. 

They  said  of  Poland,  it's  a  very  rich  land. 
But  we  found  out  it's  as  poor  as  the  damned. 
And  in  this  said  Poland  there  stands  an  inn, 
A  Polish  inn,  belongs  to  the  Polish  king. 
And  at  this  said  inn  three  lads  had  a  drink, 
A   Prussian,    a   Pole,    and    a   Don   Cossack 

Russian. 
The  Prussian,  he  drinks  vodka,  and  pays  his 

score. 
The  Pole,  he  drinks  vodka,  and  pays  some 

more. 
The    Cossack,    he    drinks-and    the    inn's   as 

poor  as  before. 
Then  he  walks  around  with  clinking  spur 
And  the  barmaid  sees  his  eye  is  on  her. 
"Oh,  mistress,  dear,  come  live  with  me, 
"Come  live  with  me,  on  the  quiet  Don, 
"The  folk  on  the  Don,  they  don't  live  your 

way, 

328 


"Don't  weave,  don't   spin,    don't  sow,  don't 

mow, 

"Don't  sow,  don't  mow,  but  they  dress  very 

gay." 

After  dinner  Gavrila  had  said  good-bye  to  his 
family  and  ridden  off.  And  from  that  day  Pela- 
geya  had  begun  to  watch  the  hem  of  her  skirt. 

She  explained  to  Natalya  Korshunova  how 
she  came  to  be  with  child.  "A  day  or  two  before 
Gavrila  arrived,  I  had  a  dream,"  she  said.  "I 
was  going  through  the  meadow,  and  I  saw  our 
old  cow  in  front  of  me,  the  one  we  had  sold 
last  holiday.  She  was  going  along  with  the  milk 
dripping  from  her  teats.  Lord,  I  thought, 
however  did  I  come  to  milk  her  so  badly?  Next 
day  old  Drozdikha  came  for  some  hops,  and  1 
told  her  my  dream.  And  she  told  me  to  break 
a  bit  of  wax  off  a  candle,  roll  it  into  a  ball,  and 
to  take  and  bury  it  in  some  cowdung,  for 
misfortune  was  watching  at  the  window.  I  ran 
to  do  as  she  said,  but  I  couldn't  find  the  candle. 
I  had  had  one,  I  knew,  but  the  children  must 
have  taken  it  to  catch  tarantulas.  Then  Gavrila 
arrived,  and  trouble  with  him.  Before  that  I 
had  gone  for  three  years  without  trouble,  and 
now  look  at  me!"  She  prodded  her  swollen 
belly. 

Pelageya    fretted     while     waiting     for    her 

329 


husband.  She  was  bored  with  her  own  com- 
pany, and  so  on  the  Friday  she  invited  her 
women  friends  to  come  and  spend  the  evening 
with  her.  Natalya  came  with  an  unfinished 
stocking  she  was  knitting,  for  when  spring 
came  Grandad  Grishaka  felt  the  cold  all  the 
more.  She  was  unnaturally  full  of  high  spirits, 
and  laughed  more  than  necessary  at  the  others' 
jokes,  trying  to  hide  her  yearning  for  her  hus- 
band from  them.  Pelageya  was  sitting  on  the 
stove  with  her  bare,  violet-veined  legs  dan- 
gling, and  bantering  the  young  shrewish  Frosya. 

"How  d'you  come  to  beat  your  husband, 
Frosya?" 

"Don't  you  know  how?  On  the  back,  on  the 
head,  and  wherever  I  could  lay  my  hands  on 
him." 

"I  didn't  mean  that,  I  meant  how  did  it 
happen." 

"It  just  happened,"  Frosya  answered  unwill- 
ingly. 

"If  you  were  to  catch  your  husband  with 
another  woman  would  you  keep  your  tongue 
quiet?"  a  tall  gaunt  woman  asked  deliberately. 

"Tell  us  all  about  it,  Frosya." 

"There's  nothing  to  tell.  . .  ." 

"Oh,  come  on,  we're  all  friends  here." 

Spitting  the  husk  of  a  sunflower  seed  into 
her  hand,  Frosya  smiled: 

330 


"Well,  I'd  noticed  his  goings-on  for  a  long 
time,  and  then  someone  told  me  he'd  been 
carrying  on  at  the  mill  with  a  hussy  from 
across  the  Don.  I  went  out  and  found  them  by 
the  mill." 

"Any  news  of  your  husband,  Natalya?"  the 
gaunt  woman  interrupted,  turning  to  Natalya. 

"He's  at  Yagodnoye,"  she  replied  in  a 
whisper. 

"Do  you  think  of  living  with  him  or  not?" 

"She  might  think  of  it,  but  he  doesn't,"  their 
hostess  intervened.  Natalya  felt  the  hot  blood 
surging  to  her  face.  She  bent  her  head  over 
her  stocking  and  glanced  from  under  her 
brows  at  the  women.  Realizing  that  she  could 
not  hide  her  flush  of  shame  from  them,  she 
deliberately,  yet  so  clumsily  that  everybody 
noticed  it,  sent  the  ball  of  wool  rolling  from 
her  knees,  and  then  bent  down  and  groped 
over  the  cold  floor. 

"Spit  on  him,  woman!  So  long  as  you  have 
a  neck,  you'll  always  find  a  yoke  for  it,"  one 
woman  advised  her  with  unconcealed  pity  in 
her  voice. 

Natalya's  affected  liveliness  died  away  like  a 
spark  in  the  wind.  The  women's  conversation 
turned  to  the  latest  scandal,  to  tittle-tattle  and 
gossip.  Natalya  knitted  in  silence.  She  forced 
herself  to  sit  on  until  the  party  broke  up,  and 

331 


then  went  home,  with  a  half-formed  decision  in 
her  mind.  Shame  for  her  uncertain  situation 
(for  she  still  would  not  believe  that  Grigory 
had  gone  for  ever,  and  was  ready  to  forgive 
him  and  take  him  back)  drove  her  on  to  a 
further  step.  She  resolved  to  send  a  letter 
secretly  to  him,  in  order  to  learn  whether  he 
had  gone  for  good  or  whether  he  might  change 
his  mind.  When  she  reached  home  she  found 
Grishaka  sitting  in  his  little  room  reading  an 
old,  greasy  leather-bound  copy  of  the  Gospels. 
Her  father  was  in  the  kitchen  mending  a  fish- 
ing-net and  listening  to  a  story  Mikhei  was 
telling  him  about  a  recent  murder.  Her  mother 
had  put  the  children  to  bed  and  was  asleep 
over  the  ledge  above  stove,  the  blackened  soles 
of  her  feet  facing  the  door.  Natalya  took  off 
her  jacket  and  wandered  aimlessly  about  the 
rooms.  In  one  corner  of  the  front  room  there 
was  a  pile  of  hempreed  and  the  mice  could  be 
heard   scampering  and  squeaking. 

She  stopped  for  a  moment  in  her  grandfa- 
ther's room,  staring  dully  at  the  stack  of  devo- 
tional books  under  the  icons. 

"Grandad,  have  you  any  paper?" 

"What  sort  of  paper?"  Grishaka  asked, 
puckering  his  forehead  into  a  frown. 

"Paper  to  write  on." 

The  old  man  fumbled  in  a  psalter,  and  drew 

332 


out  a  crumpled  sheet  of  paper  that  smelt 
strongly  of  incense. 

"And  a  pencil?" 

"Ask  your  father.  Go  away,  my  dear,  and 
don't  bother  me." 

She  obtained  a  stump  of  pencil  from  her 
father,  and  sitting  down  at  the  table,  struggled 
again  with  the  thoughts  that  had  tortured  her 
for  so  long,  thoughts  that  evoked  a  numb, 
gnawing  pain  in  her  heart. 

She  wrote: 

Grigory  Panteleyevich, 

Tell  me  how  I  am  to  live,  and  whether  my 
lite  is  quite  lost  or  not.  You  leit  home  and  you 
didn't  say  a  single  word  to  me.  I  haven't  done 
you  any  wrong,  and  I've  waited  lor  you  to  un- 
tie my  hands,  to  say  you've  gone  for  good,  but 
you've  gone  away  and  are  as  silent  as  the  grave. 

I  thought  you  had  gone  oft  in  the  heat  of  the 
moment,  and  waited  for  you  to  come  hack,  hut 
I  don't  want  to  come  between  you.  Better  one 
should  he  trodden  into  the  ground  than  two. 
Have  pity  for  once  and  write.  Then  I  shall 
know  what  to  think,  but  now  I  stand  in  the 
middle  of  the  road. 

Don't  be  angry  with  me,  Grisha,  for  the  love 
of  Christ. 

Natalya. 

333 


Next  morning  she  promised  vodka  to  Het- 
Baba  and  persuaded  him  to  ride  with  the 
letter  to  Yagodnoye.  Moody  in  expectation  of 
his  drinking  spell,  Het-Baba  led  a  horse  into 
the  yard,  and  without  informing  his  master 
went  jogging  off  to  Yagodnoye. 

On  his  horse  he  looked  awkward,  as  any 
stranger  among  Cossack  riders  does;  his  ragged 
elbows  jerked  as  he  trotted.  The  Cossack 
children  playing  in  the  street  sent  him  off  with 
jeering  cries. 

"Dirty  Ukrainian!" 

"Mind  you  don't  fall  off!" 

"Looks  like  a  dog  on  a  fence!" 

He  returned  in  the  afternoon.  He  brought 
with  him  a  piece  of  blue  sugar-bag  paper,  and 
as  he  drew  it  out  of  his  pocket  he  winked  at 
Natalya. 

"The  road  was  terrible.  I  got  such  a  shak- 
ing it  near  brought  my  liver  up." 

Natalya  read  the  note,  and  her  face  turned 
grey.  The  four  words  scribbled  on  the  paper 
entered  her  heart  like  sharp  teeth  rending  a 
weave. 

Live  alone. -Grigory  Melekhou. 

Hurriedly,  as  though  not  trusting  her  own 
strength,  Natalya  went  into  the  house  and  lay 
down  on  her  bed.  Her  mother  was  lighting  the 

334 


stove  for  the  night,  in  order  to  have  the  place 
tidy  early  on  Easter  Sunday  morning  and  to 
get  the  Easter  cake  ready  in  time. 

"Natalya,  come  and  give  me  a  hand,"  she 
called  to  her  daughter. 

"I've  got  a  headache.  Mamma,  I'll  lie  down 
for  a  bit." 

Her  mother  put  her  head  in  at  the  door. 
"Drink  some  pickle  juice,  it'll  put  you  right  in 
no  time." 

Natalya  licked  her  cold  lips  with  her  dry 
tongue  and  made  no  reply. 

She  lay  until  evening,  her  head  covered  with 
a  warm  woollen  shawl,  a  light  tremor  shaking 
her  huddled  body.  Miron  and  Grishaka  were 
about  to  go  off  to  church  when  she  got  up  and 
went  into  the  kitchen.  Beads  of  perspiration 
shone  on  her  temples  under  her  smoothly- 
combed  hair,  and  her  eyes  were  dim  with  an 
unhealthy,  oily  film. 

As  Miron  fastened  his  fly-buttons,  he 
glanced  at  his  daughter: 

"A  fine  time  to  fall  sick.  Daughter.  Come 
along  with  us  to  the  service." 

"You  go,  I'll  come  along  later." 

"In  time  to  go  home  again,  I  expect?" 

"No,  I'll  come  when  I've  dressed." 

The  men  went  out.  Lukinichna  and  Natalya 
were  left  in  the  kitchen.  Natalya  went  listlessly 

335 


backward  and  forward  from  the  chest  to  the 
bed,  stared  with  unseeing  eyes  at  the  jumbled 
heap  of  clothing  in  the  chest,  her  lips  whisper- 
ing, the  same  agonizing  thoughts  in  her  mind. 
Lukinichna  decided  she  could  not  make  up  her 
mind  which  clothes  to  wear,  and  with  motherly 
kindness  she  suggested:  "Wear  my  blue  skirt, 
dear.    It  will    just  fit    you.  Shall  I   get  it  for 


you 


?" 


Natalya  had  had  no  new  clothes  made  for 
Easter,  and  Lukinichna,  suddenly  remembering 
how  before  she  married  her  daughter  had 
loved  to  wear  her  dark-blue  hobble  skirt,  pressed 
Natalya  to  take  it,  thinking  she  was  wor- 
ried about  what  to  wear, 

"No,  I'll  go  in  this!"  Natalya  carefully  drew 
out  her  green  skirt,  and  suddenly  remembered 
that  she  had  been  wearing  it  when  Grigory 
first  visited  her  as  her  future  bridegroom, 
when  he  had  shamed  her  with  that  first  fleet- 
ing kiss  by  the  barn.  Shaking  with  sobs,  she 
fell  forward  against  the  raised  lid  of  the  chest. 

"Natalya,  what  is  the  matter?"  her  mother 
exclaimed,  clapping  her  hands. 

Natalya  choked  down  her  desire  to  scream 
and,  mastering  herself,  gave  a  rasping,  wooden 
laugh. 

"I  don't  know  what's  come  over  me  today." 

"Oh,  Natalya,  I've  noticed. . .  ." 

336 


"Well,  and  what  have  you  noticed. 
Mamma?"  she  cried  with  unexpected  irri- 
tation, crumpling  the  green  skirt  in  her  fin- 
gers. 

"You  can't  go  on  like  this;  what  you  need  is 
a  husband." 

"One  was  enough  for  me!" 

She  went  to  her  room,  and  quickly  returned 
to  the  kitchen,  dressed,  girlishly  slender,  a 
bluish  mournful  flush  in  her  pallid  cheeks. 

"You  go  on,  I'm  not  ready  yet,"  her  mother 
said. 

Pushing  a  handkerchief  into  her  sleeve,  Na- 
talya  went  out.  The  rumble  of  the  floating  ice 
and  the  bracing  tang  of  thaw  dampness  was 
wafted  to  her  on  the  wind.  Holding  up  her  skirt 
in  her  left  hand,  picking  her  way  across  the 
pearly-blue  puddles,  she  reached  the  church. 
On  the  way  she  attempted  to  recover  her  form- 
er comparatively  tranquil  state  of  mind, 
thinking  of  the  holiday,  of  everything  vaguely 
and  in  snatches.  But  her  thoughts  returned 
stubbornly  to  the  scrap  of  blue  paper  hidden 
at  her  breast,  to  Grigory  and  the  happy  wom- 
an who  was  now  complacently  laughing  at  her, 
perhaps  even  pitying  her. 

As  she  entered  the  churchyard  some  lads 
barred  her  way.  She  passed  round  them,  and 
heard  the  whisper: 

22—1933  337 


"Who  is  she?  Did  you  see?" 

"Natalya  Korshunova." 

"She's  ruptured,  they  say.  That's  why  her 
husband  left  her." 

"That's  not  true.  She  got  playing  about  with 
her  father-in-law,  lame  Pantelei." 

"Oh,  so  that's  it!  And  is  that  why  Grigory 
ran  away  from  home?" 

"That's  right.  And  she's  still  at  it.  .  .  ." 

Stumbling  over  the  uneven  stones,  followed 
by  the  shameful,  filthy  whispering,  she  reached 
the  church  porch.  The  girls  standing  in  the 
porch  giggled  as  she  turned  and  made  her 
way  to  the  farther  gate.  Swaying  drunkenly, 
she  ran  home.  At  the  gate  of  the  yard  she  took 
a  quick  breath  and  then  entered,  stumbling 
over  the  hem  of  her  skirt,  biting  her  lips  till 
the  blood  came.  Through  the  lilac  darkness 
the  open  doorway  of  the  shed  yawned  blackly. 
With  fierce  determination  she  gathered  her  last 
strength,  ran  to  the  door  and  hastily  stepped 
across  the  threshold.  The  shed  was  dry  and 
cold,  and  smelled  of  leather  harness  and  musty 
straw.  Gropingly,  without  thought  or  feeling, 
in  a  sombre  yearning  which  clawed  at  her 
shamed  and  despairing  soul,  she  made  her  way 
to  a  comer.  There  she  picked  up  a  scythe  by 
the  handle,  removed  the  blade  (her  movements 
were    deliberately   assured   and   precise);    andi, 

338 


throwing  back  her  head,  in  a  sudden  joyous 
fire  of  resolution  slashed  her  throat  with  its 
point.  She  fell  as  though  struck  down  by  the 
burning,  savage  pain,  and  vaguely  aware  that 
she  had  not  completely  carried  out  her  inten- 
tion, she  struggled  on  to  all  fours,  then  on  to 
her  knees.  Hurriedly  (she  was  terrified  by  the 
blood  pouring  over  her  chest),  with  trembling 
fingers  she  tore  off  the  buttons  of  her  jacket, 
then  with  one  hand  she  drew  aside  her  taut,  un- 
yielding breast,  and  with  the  other  she  guided 
the  point  of  the  scythe.  She  crawled  on  her 
knees  to  the  wall,  thrust  the  blunt  end  of  the 
scythe  blade  into  it,  and  throwing  her  arms 
behind  her  head,  pressed  her  chest  firmly  for- 
ward, forward.  .  .  .  She  clearly  heard  and  felt 
the  revolting  cabbage-like  scrunch  of  the  rend- 
ing flesh;  a  rising  wave  of  intense  pain  flowed 
over  her  breast  to  her  throat,  and  pressed  ring- 
ing needles  into  her  ears. .  .  . 

The  kitchen  door  scraped.  Lukinichna  groped 
her  way  down  the  steps.  From  the  belfry  came 
the  measured  tolling  of  the  church  bell.  With 
an  incessant  grinding  roar  the  giant  upreared 
floes  were  floating  down  the  Don.  The  joyous, 
full-flowing,  liberated  river  was  carrying  its 
icy  fetters  away  down  to  the  Sea  of  Azov. 


22*  339 


XIX 

Stepan  walked  up  to  Grigory  and,  seizing 
the  horse's  stirrup,  pressed  hard  against  its 
sweating  flank. 

"Well,  how  are  you,  Grigory?" 
"Praise  be!" 

"What  are  you  thinking  about?  Huh?" 
"What  should  I  be  thinking  about?" 
"You've  carried  off  another  man's    wife.  .  .  . 
Having  your  will  of  her?" 
"Let  go  of  the  stirrup." 
"Don't  be  scared!  I  won't  hit  you." 
"I'm  not  afraid.  Don't  start  that!"  Grigory 
flushed  and  raised  his  voice. 

"I  shan't  fight  you  today.  I  don't  want  to. .  .  . 
But  mark  my  words,  Grigory,  sooner  or  later 
I'll  kill  you." 

"  'We'll  see,'  the  blind  man  said!" 
"Mark  my  words  well.  You've  wronged  me. 
You've  gelded  my  life  like  a  hog's.  You  see 
there  .  ,  ."  he  stretched  out  his  hands  with  their 
grimy  palms  upward.  "I'm  ploughing,  and  the 
Lord  knows  what  for.  Do  I  need  it  for  myself? 
I  could  shift  around  a  bit  and  get  through  the 
winter  that  way.  It's  only  the  loneliness  of  it 
all  that  gets  me  down.  You've  done  me  a  great 
wrong,  Grigory." 

340 


"It's  no  good  complaining  to  me.  The  full 
man  doesn't  understand   the   hungry," 

"That's  true,"  Stepan  agreed,  staring  up  into 
Grigory's  face.  And  suddenly  he  broke  into  a 
simple,  boyish  smile  which  splintered  the  cor- 
ners of  his  eyes  into  tiny  cracks.  "I'm  sorry 
only  for  one  thing,  lad,  very  sorry.  . .  .  You  re- 
member the  year  before  last,  that  village 
fight  at  Shrovetide?" 

"No,  I  don't." 

"The  day  they  killed  the  fuller.  When  the 
single  men  fought  the  married,  don't  you  re- 
member? Remember  how  I  chased  after  you? 
You  were  young  and  weak  then,  a  green  rush 
compared  to  me.  I  spared  you  that  time,  but 
if  I'd  hit  you  as  you  were  running  away,  I'd 
have  split  you  in  two.  You  ran  quickly,  all 
springy-like;  if  I'd  struck  you  hard  in  the  ribs 
you  wouldn't  be  living  in  the  world  today." 

"Don't  let  it  worry  you,  we'll  have  another  go 
at  each  other  yet." 

Stepan  rubbed  his  forehead  as  though  trying 
to  recall  something.  Old  Listnitsky,  leading  his 
horse  by  the  reins,  called  to  Grigory.  Still 
holding  the  stirrup  with  his  left  hand,  Stepan 
walked  alongside  the  stallion,  Grigory  watched 
his  every  movement.  He  noticed  Stepan's 
drooping  chestnut  moustache,  the  heavy  scrub 
on  his  }ong-unshaven  chin,  the  cracked  paten t- 

341 


leather  strap  of  his  military  cap.  His  dirty  face, 
marked  with  white  runnels  of  sweat,  was  sad 
and  strangely  unfamiliar.  As  he  looked  Grigory 
felt  that  he  might  well  be  gazing  from  a  hill- 
top at  the  distant  steppe  veiled  in  a  rainy  mist. 
A  grey  weariness  and  emptiness  ashened  Ste- 
pan's  features.  He  dropped  behind  without  a 
word  of  farewell.  Grigory  rode  on  at  a  walk. 

"Wait  a  bit.  And  how  is  .  .  .  how  is  Aksi- 
nya?" 

Knocking  a  lump  of  earth  off  his  boot  with 
the  whip,  Grigory  replied:  "Oh,  she's  all 
right." 

He  halted  the  stallion  and  glanced  back. 
Stepan  was  standing  with  his  feet  planted  wide 
apart,  chewing  a  stalk  between  his  teeth.  For 
a  moment  Grigory  suddenly  felt  unaccountably 
sorry  for  him,  but  jealousy  rose  uppermost. 
Turning  in  his  saddle,  he  shouted: 

"She  doesn't  miss  you,  don't  worry!" 

"Is  that  so?" 

Grigory  lashed  his  horse  between  the  ears 
and  galloped  away  without  replying. 

XX 

Aksinya  confessed  her  pregnancy  to  Grigory 
only  during  the  sixth  month,  when  she  was  no 
longer  able  to  conceal  it  from  him.  She    had 

342 


kept  silent  so  long  because  she  was  afraid  he 
would  not  believe  it  was  his  child  she  was  car- 
rying. During  the  first  months  of  anxious  ex- 
pectation she  had  sometimes  been  sick  without 
Grigory  noticing  it,  or  if  he  had  noticed  it, 
without  his  guessing  the  reason  why. 

Wrought  up,  she  told  him  one  evening,  anx- 
iously scanning  his  face  the  while  for  any 
change  in  its  expression.  But  he  turned  away 
to  the  window  and  coughed  with  vexation. 

"Why  didn't  you  tell  me  before?" 

"I  was  afraid  to,  Grisha.  I  thought  you  might 
throw  me  over.  . .  ." 

Drumming  his  fingers  on  the  back  of  the  bed, 
he  asked: 

"Is  it  to  be  soon?" 

"The  beginning  of  August,  I  think." 

"Is  it  Stepan's?" 

"No,  it's  yours!" 

"So  you  say." 

"Reckon  up  for  yourself.  From  the  day  of  the 
wood-cutting  it's.  .  .  ." 

"Don't  make  things  up,  Aksinya!  Even  if  it 
was  Stepan's,  what  could  you  do  about  it?  I 
want  an  honest  answer." 

Weeping  angry  tears,  Aksinya  sat  down  on 
the  bench  and  broke  into  a  fierce  whisper. 

"I  lived  with  him  so  many  years  and  noth- 
ing ever  happened!    Think    for    yourself!    I'm 

343 


not  an  ailing  Woman.  ...  I  must  have  got  it 
from  you.  .  .  .  And  you.  .  .  ." 

Grigory  talked  no  more  about  the  matter.  A 
new  thread  of  wary  aloofness  and  a  light 
mocking  pity  was  woven  into  his  attitude  to 
Aksinya.  She  withdrew  into  herself,  asking  for 
no  favours.  During  the  summer  she  lost  her 
good  looks,  but  pregnancy  hardly  affected  her 
shapely  figure;  her  general  fullness  concealed 
her  condition,  and  although  her  face  was  thin- 
ner it  gained  a  new  beauty  from  her  warmly- 
glowing  eyes.  She  easily  managed  her  work  as 
cook,  especially  as  that  year  fewer  labourers 
were  employed  on  the  estate. 

Old  Sashka  grew  fond  of  Aksinya,  with  the 
capricious  fondness  of  old  age.  Perhaps  it  was 
because  she  treated  him  with  daughterly  care: 
washed  his  linen,  mended  his  shirts,  gave  him 
softer  bits  at  the  table.  After  seeing  to  his 
horses  old  Sashka  would  come  into  the  kitchen, 
fetch  water,  mash  potatoes  for  the  pigs,  do  all 
kinds  of  odd  jobs,  and  hopping  about  round 
her,  expose  the  bare  gums  of  his  mouth  as"  he 
said: 

"You're  good  to  me,  and  I'll  repay  you.  I'll 
do  anything  for  you,  Aksinya.  I'd  have  been 
done  for  without  a  woman's  care.  The  lice  were 
eating  me  up.  If  you  ever  want  anything,  just 
ask  me." 

344 


Yevgeny  had  arranged  for  his  coachman  to 
be  freed  from  the  spring  training  camp,  and 
Grigory  worked  at  the  mowing,  occasionally 
drove  old  Listnitsky  to  the  district  centre,  and 
spent  the  rest  of  the  time  hunting  with  him 
after  bustards.  The  easy-going,  comfortable  life 
began  to  spoil  him.  He  grew  lazy  and  stout, 
and  looked  older  than  his  years.  The  only  thing 
that  worried  him  was  the  thought  of  his  forth- 
coming army  service.  He  had  neither  horse  nor 
equipment,  and  he  could  hope  for  nothing  from 
his  father.  He  saved  the  wages  he  received  for 
himself  and  Aksinya,  and  even  stinted  him- 
self on  tobacco,  hoping  to  be  able  to  buy  a 
horse  without  having  to  beg  from  his  father. 
Old  Listnitsky  also  promised  to  help  him.  Gri- 
gory's  presentiment  that  his  father  would  give 
him  nothing  was  quickly  confirmed.  At  the  end 
of  July  Pyotr  visited  his  brother,  and  in  the 
course  of  conversation  mentioned  that  his 
father  was  as  angry  with  him  as  ever,  and  had 
declared  that  he  wouldn't  help  him  get  a  horse. 
"Let  him  go  to  the  local  command  for  one,"  he 
had  said. 

"He  needn't  worry,  I'll  go  to  do  my  service 
on  my  own  horse,"  Grigory  declared,  stressing 
"my  own." 

"How'll  you  get  it?  Dance  for  it?"  Pyotr 
asked,  chewing  his  moustache. 

345 


"I'll  dance  for  it,  or  beg  for  it,  and  if  I  can't 
get  it  that  way  I'll  steal  it." 

"Good  lad!" 

"I'm  going  to  buy  a  horse  with  my  wages," 
Grigory  said  more  seriously. 

Pyotr  sat  on  the  steps,  asking  Grigory  about 
his  work,  food,  wages,  and  chewing  the  ends 
of  his  moustache,  nodded  his  approval.  Having 
completed  his  inquiries,  as  he  turned  to  go,  he 
said  to  his  brother: 

"You'd  better  come  back,  it's  no  good  stick- 
ing on  your  high  horse.  Do  you  expect  to  earn 
more  this  way?" 

"No,  I  don't." 

"Are  you  thinking  of  staying  with  her?" 

"With  who?" 

"With  this  one." 

"Yes.  Why  not?" 

"Oh,  I  just  wondered." 

As  Grigory  went  to  see  his  brother  off  he 
asked  at  last:  "How's  everything  at  home?" 

iPyotr  laughed  as  he  untied  his  horse  from 
the  railing  of  the  steps. 

"You've  got  as  many  homes  as  a  hare  has 
holes!  Everything's  all  right.  Mother  misses 
you.  We've  got  in  the  hay,  three  loads  of  it." 

Grigory  worriedly  scanned  the  old  mare  his 
brother  was  riding:  "No  foal  this  year?" 

"No,    Brother,    she's    barren.    But    the    bay 

346 


which  we  got  from  Christonya  has  foaled.  A 
stallion  it  is,  a  good  one  too.  Long  in  the  legs, 
sound  pasterns,  and  a  strong  chest  on  him.  It'll 
be  a  good  horse." 

Grigory  sighed.  "I  miss  the  village,  Pyotr," 
he  said.  "I  miss  the  Don.  You  never  see  run- 
ning water  here.  It's  a  dreary  hole!" 

"Come  and  see  us,"  Pyotr  replied  as  he 
hoisted  his  body  on  to  the  mare's  bony  spine. 

"Some  day." 

"Well,   good-bye." 

"A  good  journey." 

Pyotr  had  ridden  out  of  the  yard  when,  re- 
membering something,  he  called  to  Grigory 
who  was  still  standing  on  the  steps: 

"Natalya  ...  I'd  forgotten  ...  a  terrible 
thing.  .  .  ." 

The  wind  hovering  vulture-like  over  the 
farm  carried  the  end  of  the  sentence  away  from 
Grigory's  ears.  Pyotr  and  the  horse  were  en- 
veloped in  velvety  dust,  and  Grigory  shrugged 
his  shoulders  and  went  off  to  the  stables. 

The  summer  was  bone-dry.  Little  rain  fell 
and  the  corn  ripened  early.  As  soon  as  the  rye 
was  garnered  the  barley  was  ripe  and  yellow. 
The  four  day-labourers  and  Grigory  went  out 
to  reap  it. 

Aksinya  had  finished  work  early  that  day, 
and  she  asked  Grigory  to  take  her  with  him. 

347 


Despite  his  attempt  to  dissuade  her,  she  quick- 
ly threw  a  kerchief  over  her  head,  ran  out,  and 
caught  up  with  the  wagon  in  which  the  men 
were  riding. 

The  event  which  Aksinya  anticipated  with 
yearning  and  joyous  impatience,  and  Grigory 
with  vague  apprehension,  happened  during  the 
harvesting.  Feeling  the  symptoms,  she  threw 
down  the  rake  and  lay  under  a  stook.  Her  trav- 
ail came  on  quickly.  Biting  her  blackened 
tongue,  she  lay  flat  on  the  ground.  The  labour- 
ers with  the  reaping  machine  passed  her  on 
the  turn  and  shouted.  One  of  them,  a  young 
man  with  a  festering  sore  on  his  nose  and 
numerous  folds  in  his  yellow  face  that  looked 
as  if  it  has  been  carved  out  of  wood,  called 
out  to  her: 

"Hey,  you!  Get  up,  or  you'll  melt!" 

Grigory  got  one  of  the  men  to  take  his  place 
at  the  machine  and  went  across  to  her. 

"What's  the  matter?" 

Her  lips  writhing  uncontrollably,  she  said 
hoarsely: 

"I'm  in  labour.  . .  ." 

"I  told  you  not  to  come,  you  devil's  bitch! 
Now  what  are  we  to  do?" 

"Don't  be  angry  with  me,  Grisha.  .  .!  Oh.  .  .! 
Oh, .  .  !  Grisha,  harness  the  horse  to  the  wag- 
on.  I   must  get  home.  .  .  .   How  could  I,  here 

348 


. .  .  with  the  Cossacks  .  .  ."  she  moaned,  as  the 
pain  gripped  her  like  an  iron  band. 

Grigory  ran  for  the  horse.  It  was  grazing  in 
a  hollow  a  little  way  off,  and  by  the  time  he 
drove  up,  Aksinya  had  struggled  on  to  all 
fours,  thrust  her  head  into  a  pile  of  dusty  bar- 
ley, and  was  spitting  out  the  prickly  ears  she 
had  chewed  in  her  pain.  She  fixed  her  dilated 
eyes  vacantly  on  Grigory,  and  set  her  teeth 
into  her  crumpled  apron  to  prevent  the  labour- 
ers from  hearing  her  horrible,  rending  cry. 

Grigory  lifted  her  into  the  wagon  and  drove 
the  horse  fast  towards  the  estate. 

"Oh!  Don't  hurry.  . .  .  Oh,  death!  You're  .  .  . 
shaking  .  . .  me  .  .  ."  Aksinya  screamed  as  her 
head  knocked  on  the  bottom  of  the  wagon. 

Grigory  silently  plied  the  whip  and  swung 
the  reins  around  his  head,  without  a  glance 
back  at  her. 

Pressing  her  cheeks  with  her  palms,  her 
staring,  frenzied  eyes  rolling  wildly,  Aksinya 
bounced  about  in  the  wagon  as  it  swung  from 
side  to  side  over  the  bumpy,  little-used  road, 
Grigory  kept  the  horse  at  a  gallop;  the  shaft- 
bow  bobbed  up  and  down  before  his  eyes,  ob- 
scuring a  dazzling  white  cloud  that  hung  like 
polished  crystal  in  the  sky.  For  a  moment  Ak- 
sinya ceased  her  shrieking  howls.  The  wheels 
rattled,  and  her  head  thudded  heavily  against 

349 


the  bottom-board.  At  first  her  silence  did  not 
impress  itself  on  Grigory,  but  then  he  glanced 
back.  Aksinya  was  lying  with  a  horribly  dis- 
torted face,  her  cheek  pressed  hard  against  the 
side  of  the  wagon,  her  jaws  working  like  a 
fish  flung  ashore.  The  sweat  was  pouring  from 
her  brow  into  the  deep  sockets  of  her  eyes. 
Grigory  turned  and  raised  her  head,  putting 
his  crumpled  cap  under  it.  Glancing  sidelong 
at  him,  she  said  firmly: 

"I  shall  die,  Grisha.  And  that's  all  there  is 
to  it!" 

Grigory  shuddered;  a  chill  ran  down  his 
body  to  his  toes.  He  sought  for  words  of  en- 
couragement, of  comfort,  but  could  not  find 
them.  His  lips  twisted  harshly  and  he  burst 
out:  "Don't  talk  nonsense,  you  fool!"  Then  he 
shook  his  head,  and  leaning  over  backwards, 
squeezed  her  foot:  "Aksinya,  my  little 
pigeon. .  .  ." 

The  pain  died  away  and  left  Aksinya  for  a 
moment,  then  returned  with  redoubled  force. 
Feeling  something  rending  her  belly,  she 
arched  her  body  and  pierced  Grigory's  ears 
with  a  terrifying,  rising  scream.  Grigory  fran- 
tically whipped  up  the  horse. 

Then  above  the  rattle  of  the  wheels  Grigory 
heard  her  thin,  feeble  voice: 

"Grisha!" 

350 


He  reined  in  the  horse  and  turned  his  head. 
Aksinya  lay  in  a  pool  of  blood,  her  arms  flung 
out.  Between  her  legs  a  living  thing  was  stir- 
ring and  squealing.  Grigory  frenziedly  jumped 
down  from  the  wagon  and  stumbled  to  the 
back.  Staring  into  Aksinya's  panting,  burning 
mouth,  he  guessed  rather  than  heard  the  words : 

"Bite  through  the  cord  ...  tie  it  with  cot- 
ton ,  .  .  from  your  shirt.  .  .  ." 

With  trembling  fingers  he  tore  strands  of 
threads  from  the  sleeve  of  his  cotton  shirt,  and 
screwing  up  his  eyes  till  it  hurt,  he  bit  through 
the  navel  cord  and  carefully  tied  up  the  bleed- 
ing end  with  cotton. 

XXI 

The  estate  of  Yagodnoye  clung  to  the  side  of 
the  broad  dry  valley  like  a  growth.  The  wind 
blew  changeably  from  north  or  south;  the 
sun  floated  in  the  bluish  whiteness  of  the  sky; 
autumn  rustled  in  on  the  heels  of  summer, 
winter  clamped  down  with  its  frost  and  snow, 
but  Yagodnoye  remained  sunk  in  its  wooden 
torpor.  So  the  days  passed  one  after  the  other, 
alike  as  twins,  and  always  the  estate  was  cut 
off  from  the  rest  of  the  world. 

The  black  whisperer-ducks  with  red  rings 
like  spectacles  roimd  their  eyes  still  waddled 

351 


about  the  farmyard;  the  guinea-fowls  were 
scattered  about  like  beady  rain;  gawdy-feath- 
ered  peacocks  miaowed  throatily  like  cats  from 
the  stable  roof.  The  old  general  was  fond  of 
all  kinds  of  birds,  and  even  kept  a  maimed 
crane.  In  November,  when  it  heard  the  faint 
call  of  the  wild  cranes  flying  to  the  south,  it 
wrung  the  heart-strings  with  its  copper-tongued 
cry  of  yearning.  But  it  could  not  fly,  for 
one  wing  hung  uselessly  at  its  side.  As  the 
general  stood  at  the  window  and  watched  the 
bird  stretching  out  its  neck  and  jumping,  flut- 
tering off  the  ground,  he  laughed  opening  his 
big  mouth  under  the  grey  awning  of  his  mous- 
tache, and  the  deep  tones  of  his  laughter  rocked 
through  the  empty  white-walled  hall. 

Venyamin  carried  his  fuzzy  head  as  high  as 
ever,  and  spent  whole  days  alone  in  the  ante- 
room, playing  cards  with  himself.  Tikhon  was 
as  jealous  as  ever  of  his  pock-marked  mistress 
and  Sashka,  the  day-labourers,  Grigory,  the 
master  and  even  the  crane  to  whom  Lukerya 
was  devoting  the  tenderness  which  overflowed 
her  widowed  heart.  Every  now  and  then  old 
Sashka  would  get  drunk  and  beg  for  twenty- 
kopeck  pieces  under  old  Listnitsky's  window. 

During  all  the  time  of  Grigory's  stay  only 
two  events  disturbed  the  mildewed  torpor  of 
the  sleepy,  monotonous  life  of  Yagodnoye:  the 

352 


coming  of  Aksinya's  child,  and  the  loss  of  a 
prize  gander.  The  inhabitants  of  Yagodnoye 
quickly  grew  accustomed  to  the  baby  girl,  and 
finding  some  of  the  gander's  feathers  in  the 
meadow,  concluded  that  a  fox  had  carried  him 
off,  and  settled  down  again  to  their  peaceful 
existence. 

In  the  morning,  when  he  awoke,  the  master 
would  call  in  Venyamin. 

"Did  you  dream  of  anything  last  night?" 

"Why,  of  course,  I  had  a  wonderful  dream." 

"Tell  it  to  me,"  Listnitsky  would  order 
curtly,  rolling  himself  a  cigarette. 

And  Venyamin  would  relate  it.  If  the  dream 
happened  to  be  uninteresting  or  frightening, 
Listnitsky  would  get  angry. 

"You  dolt!  A  fool  is  visited  by  foolish 
dreams." 

Venyamin  started  to  invent  gay  and  amusing 
dreams.  But  it  was  difficult  for  him.  He  started 
to  invent  his  gay  dreams  several  days  in  ad- 
vance, sitting  on  his  trunk  and  shuffling  the 
cards-puffy  and  oily  as  the  cheeks  of  the 
player.  His  eyes  staring  fixedly,  he  exerted  his 
brain  until  he  reached  a  point  where  he  stopped 
having  proper  dreams  altogether.  When 
he  woke  in  the  morning,  he  would  strain  his 
memory,  trying  to  recall  what  he  had  dreamed, 
but  darkness  lay  behind  him,  black  darkness. 

23—1933  353 


He  had  dreamed  nothing,  not  even  seen  a  face 
in  his  sleep. 

Venyamin's  store  of  artless  inventions  was 
soon  exhausted,  and  the  master  grew  angry 
when  he  caught  him  repeating  himself. 

"You  told  me  that  dream  about  a  horse  last 
Thursday,  damn  you!" 

"I  dreamed  it  again,  Nikolai  Alexeyevich! 
Honest  to  God,  I  dreamed  it  again!"  Venyamin 
lied  calmly. 

In  December  Grigory  was  summoned  to  the 
district  administration  at  Vyeshenskaya.  There 
he  was  given  a  hundred  rubles  to  buy  a  horse, 
and  was  instructed  to  report  two  days  after 
Christmas  at  the  village  of  Mankovo  for  the 
army  draft. 

He  returned  to  Yagodnoye  in  considerable 
agitation.  Christmas  was  approaching,  and  he 
had  nothing  ready.  With  the  money  he  had  re- 
ceived from  the  authorities  plus  his  own  sav- 
ings he  bought  a  horse  for  a  hundred  and  forty 
rubles.  He  took  Sashka  with  him  and  they  pur- 
chased a  presentable  enough  animal,  a  six- 
year-old  bay  with  one  hidden  blemish.  Old 
Sashka  combed  his  beard  with  his  fingers  and 
said: 

"You  won't  get  one  cheaper,  and  the  author- 
ities won't  see  the  flaw!  They  haven't  got 
enough  gumption!" 

354 


Grigory  rode  the  horse  back  to  Yagodnoye, 
putting  it  through  its  paces. 

A  week  before  Christmas  Pantelei  arrived 
unexpectedly  at  Yagodnoye.  He  did  not  drive 
into  the  yard,  but  tied  up  his  horse  and  basket 
sledge  at  the  gate,  and  limped  towards  the  serv- 
ants' quarters,  rubbing  the  icicles  off  his 
beard  that  hung  like  a  black  log  over  the  col- 
lar of  his  coat.  Grigory  happened  to  be  look- 
ing out  of  the  window  and  saw  his  father  ap- 
proaching. 

"Well  I'm  ...  Father!" 

For  some  reason  Aksinya  ran  to  the  cradle 
and  wrapped  up  the  child.  Pantelei  stumped 
into  the  room,  bringing  a  breath  of  cold  air 
with  him.  He  removed  his  fur  cap  and  crossed 
himself  facing  the  icon,  then  gazed  slowly 
around  the  room. 

"Good  health!" 

"Good-morning,  Father!"  Grigory  replied, 
rising  from  the  bench  and  striding  to  the  cen- 
tre of  the  room,  ' 

Pantelei  offered  Grigory  an  icy  hand,  and  sat 
down  on  the  edge  of  the  bench,  wrapping  his 
sheepskin  around  him.  He  scarcely  glanced  at 
Aksinya,  who  stood  very  still  by  the  cradle. 

"Getting  ready  for  your  service?" 

"Of  course." 

2:^^^  355 


Pantelei  was  silent,  staring  long  and  ques- 
tioningly  at  Grigory. 

"Take  your  things  off.  Father,  you  must  be 
frozen." 

"It  doesn't  matter." 

"We'll  get  the  samovar  going." 

"Thank  you."  The  old  man  scraped  an  old 
spot  of  mud  off  his  coat  with  his  finger-nail, 
and  added:  "I've  brought  your  kit;  two  coats, 
a  saddle,  and  trousers.  You'll  find  them  all 
there  in  the  sledge." 

Grigory  went  out  and  removed  the  two  sacks 
of  equipment  from  the  sledge.  When  he  re- 
turned his  father  rose  from  the  bench. 

"When  are  you  going  off?"  he  asked  his  son. 

"The  day  after  Christmas.  You  aren't  going 
already,  are  you.  Father?" 

"I  want  to  get  back  early." 

He  took  leave  of  Grigory,  and  still  avoiding 
Aksinya's  eyes,  went  towards  the  door.  As  he 
lifted  the  latch  he  turned  his  eyes  in  the  direc- 
tion of  the  cradle,  and  said: 

"Your  mother  sends  her  greetings.  She's  in 
bed  with  trouble  in  her  legs."  After  a  momen- 
tary pause,  he  said  heavily:  "I  shall  ride  with 
you  to  Mankovo.  Be  ready  when  I  come." 

He  went  out  thrusting  his  hands  into  warm, 
knitted  gloves.  Aksinya,  pale  with  the  humilia- 
tion she  had  suffered,  said    nothing.    Grigory 

356 


paced  the  room,  glancing  sideways  at  Aksinya 
as  he  passed  her,  and  constantly  stepping  on  a 
creaking  board. 

On  Christmas  Day  Grigory  drove  his  master 
to  Vyeshenskaya.  Listnitsky  attended  mass, 
had  breakfast  with  his  cousin,  a  local  land- 
owner, and  then  ordered  Grigory  to  get  the 
sleigh  ready  for  the  return  journey.  Grigory  had 
not  finished  his  bowl  of  rich  pork  and  cabbage 
soup,  but  he  rose  at  once,  went  to  the  stable, 
and  harnessed  the  dapple-grey  trotting-horse 
to  the  light  sleigh. 

The  wind  was  sifting  the  fine,  tingling  snow- 
flakes;  a  silvery  froth  hissed  through  the  yard; 
a  soft  fringe  of  hoar-frost  hung  from  the  trees 
beyond  the  fence.  The  wind  shook  it  down,  and 
as  it  fell  and  scattered,  it  reflected  a  rainbow- 
rich  variety  of  colours  from  the  sun.  On  the 
roof  close  to  the  smoking  chimney  the  chilly 
jackdaws' were  chattering  loudly.  Startled  by 
the  sound  of  footsteps,  they  flew  off,  circled 
round  the  house  like  dove-coloured  snow- 
flakes,  then  flew  to  the  east,  to  the  church 
clearly  outlined  against  the  violet  morning  sky. 

"Tell  the  master  we're  ready,"  Grigory 
shouted  to  the  maid  that  came  to  the  steps  of 
the  house. 

Listnitsky  came  out  and  climbed  into  the 
sleigh,  his  whiskers  buried  in  the  collar  of  his 

357 


raccoon  coat.  Grigory  wrapped  up  his  legs  and 
adjusted  the   velvet-lined  wolf-skin. 

"Warm  him  up,"  Listnitsky  said  glancing  at 
the  horse. 

Leaning  back  in  his  seat,  his  hands  tense  on 
the  quivering  reins,  Grigory  watched  the  ruts, 
anxiously  remembering  the  far  from  feeble 
box  on  the  ears  the  master  had  given  him  for 
handling  the  sleigh  awkwardly  one  day  early 
in  winter.  As  they  drove  down  to  the  Don  Gri- 
gory released  his  grip  on  the  reins  and  rubbed 
his  wind-seared  cheeks  with  his  glove. 

They  arrived  at  Yagodnoye  within  two 
hours.  Listnitsky  had  been  silent  throughout 
the  drive,  occasionally  tapping  Grigory  on  the 
back  with  his  finger  as  a  signal  to  stop  while 
he  rolled  and  lit  a  cigarette.  Only  as  they  were 
descending  the  hill  to  the  house  did  he  ask: 

"Early  tomorrow  morning?" 

Grigory  turned  sideways  in  his  'seat,  and 
dragged  his  frozen  lips  apart  with  difficulty. 
His  tongue,  stiff  with  cold,  seemed  to  swell  and 
stick  to  the  back  of  his  teeth. 

"Yes,"  he  managed  to  reply. 

"Got  all  your  money?" 

"Yes." 

"Don't  worry  about  your  wife,  she'll  be  all 
right  with  us.  Be  a  good  soldier,-  your  grand- 
father was  a  fine  Cossack,  And  mind,"    List- 

358 


nitsky's  voice  grew  muffled  as  he  hid  his  face 
from  the  wind  in  the  collar  of  his  coat,  "and 
mind  you  conduct  yourself  in  a  manner  worthy 
of  ,your  grandfather  and  father.  Your  father 
received  the  first  prize  for  trick  riding  at  the 
Imperial  Review,  didn't  he?" 

"Yes." 

"Well  then!"  the  old  man  ended  with  a  stern 
note  in  his  voice,  as  though  admonishing  Gri- 
gory,  and  buried  his  face  once  more  in  his  fur 
coat. 

At  the  yard  Grigory  handed  over  the  horse 
to  Sashka,  and  turned  to  go  to  the  servants' 
quarters, 

"Your  father's  arrived,"  Sashka  shouted  after 
him. 

Grigory  found  Pantelei  sitting  at  the  table, 
eating  meat  jelly.  "Tight!"  Grigory  decided, 
glancing  at  his  father's  flushed  face. 

"So  you're  back,  soldier?" 

"I'm  frozen,"  Grigory  answered,  clapping 
his  hands  together.  Turning  to  Aksinya,  he  add- 
ed: "Untie  my  hood,  my  fingers  are  too  stiff." 

"You  must  have  had  the  wind  against  you," 
his  father  grunted,  chewing  steadily. 

This  time  his  father  was  in  a  kindlier  mood, 
and  ordered  Aksinya  about  as  if  he  were  in  his 
own  home.  "Don't  be  so  stingy  with  the  bread, 
cut  some  more,"  he  told  her. 

359 


When  he  had  finished  he  rose  from  the  table 
and  went  towards  the  door  to  have  a  smoke  in 
the  yard.  As  he  passed  the  cradle  he  rocked  it 
once  or  twice,  pretending  that  the  action  was 
accidental,  and  asked:  "A  Cossack?" 

"A  girl,"  Aksinya  replied  for  Grigory;  and 
catching  the  expression  of  dissatisfaction  that 
passed  over  the  old  man's  face,  she  hurriedly 
added:  "She's  the  image  of  Grisha!" 

Pantelei  attentively  examined  the  dark  little 
head  sticking  out  of  the  clothes,  and  declared, 
not  without  a  touch  of  pride:  "She's  of  our 
blood.  .  .  !  Well,  I  never!" 

"How  did  you  come.  Father?"  Grigory 
asked. 

"With  the  mare  and  Pyotr's  horse." 
"You  need  only  have  used  one,  and  we  could 
have  harnessed  mine  for  the  journey  to  Man- 
kovo." 

"Let  him  go  light.  He's  not  a  bad  horse,  you 
know." 

They  were  both  troubled  by  the  same 
thought,  but  they  talked  of  various  trivial  mat- 
ters. Aksinya  took  no  part  in  the  conversation, 
and  sat  on  the  bed.  Her  full  breasts  swelled 
tightly  under  her  blouse.  She  had  grown  notice- 
ably stouter  since  the  birth  of  the  child,  and 
had  a  new,  confidently  happy  air. 

It  was  late  when  they  went  to  bed.  As  she 

360 


nestled  close  at  Grigory's  side,  Aksinya  mois- 
tened his  shirt  with  her  tears  and  the  over- 
abundant milk  seeping  from  her  breasts. 

"I  shall  pine  away.  What  shall  I  do  without 
you?" 

"You'll  be  all  right,"  Grigory  murmured. 

"The  long  nights  .  .  .  the  child  awake.  .  . . 
Just  think,  Grisha!  Four  years!" 

"In  the  old  days  service  lasted  twenty-five 
years,  they  say." 

"What  do  I  care  about  the  old  days?" 

"Come  now,  enough  of  that!" 

"Curse  your  army  service,  I  say." 

"I  shall  come  home  on  furlough." 

"On  furlough!"  Aksinya  moaned,  sobbing 
and  wiping  her  nose  on  her  shift.  "A  lot  of 
water  will  go  down  the  Don  before  then." 

"Not  so  much  whimpering!  You're  like  rain 
in  autumn,  always  drizzling." 

"You  should  be  in  my  shoes." 

Grigory  fell  asleep  a  little  before  dawn.  Ak- 
sinya got  up  and  fed  the  child,  then  lay  down 
again.  Leaning  on  her  elbows  she  gazed  un- 
blinkingly  into  Grigory's  face,  and  took  a  long 
farewell  of  him.  She  recalled  the  night  when 
she  had  tried  to  persuade  him  to  go  away  with 
her  to  the  Kuban;  it  had  been  the  same  as 
now,  except  that  there  had  been  a  moon  flood- 
ing the  yard  outside  the  window  with  its  white 

^6f 


light.  The  same,  and  Grigory  was  still  the 
same,  yet  not  the  same.  Behind  them  both  lay 
a  long  track  trodden  out  by  the  passing  days. 

He  turned  over,  muttered  something  about 
Olshansky  village,  and  then  was  silent.  Aksi- 
nya  tried  to  sleep,  but  her  thoughts  drove  all 
sleep  away,  like  wind  scattering  a  haycock. 
Until  daybreak  she  lay  thinking  over  his  dis- 
connected phrase,  seeking  its  meaning.  Pantelei 
awoke  as  soon  as  daylight  began  to  foam  on 
the  frosty  windows. 

"Grigory,  get  up,  it's  getting  light." 

Kneeling  on  the  bed,  Aksinya  pulled  on  her 
skirt  and  with  a  sigh  started  looking  for  the 
matches. 

By  the  time  they  had  breakfasted  and 
packed,  dawn  had  fully  come.  The  black  stakes 
of  the  fence  were  clearly  outlined  and  the 
stable  roof  loomed  darkly  against  the  misty 
lilac  of  the  sky.  Pantelei  went  to  harness  his 
horses  while  Grigory  tore  himself  away  from 
Aksinya's  desperately  passionate  kisses  and 
went  to  say  good-bye  to  Sashka  and  the  other 
servants. 

Wrapping  the  child  up  warmly,  Aksinya 
took  her  out  with  her  to  take  a  last  farewell. 
Grigory  lightly  touched  his  daughter's  damp 
little  forehead  with  his  lips,  and  went  to  his 
horse. 

362 


"Come  in  the  sledge,"  his  father  called,  as 
he  touched  up  his  horses. 

"No,  I'll  ride  my  horse." 

With  deliberate  slowness  Grigory  fastened 
the  saddle-girths,  mounted  his  horse,  and 
gathered  the  reins  in  his  hand.  Aksinya 
touched  the  stirrup  with  her  hand  and  kept  re- 
peating: 

"Grisha,  wait.  .  . .  There's  something  I 
wanted  to  say. .  .  ."  And  puckering  her  brow, 
trembling  and  bewildered,  she  tried  to  remem- 
ber what  it  was. 

"Well,  good-bye.  .  .  .  Look  after  the  child.  .  . . 
I  must  be  off;  see  how  far  Father's  got  already." 

"Wait,  dearest!"  With  her  left  hand  Aksinya 
seized  the  icy  iron  stirrup;  her  right  arm 
pressed  the  baby  to  her  breast;  and  she  had  no 
free  hand  with  which  to  wipe  away  the  tears 
streaming  from  her  wide  staring  eyes. 

Venyamin  came  to  the  steps  of  the  house. 

"Grigory,   the   master  wants  you!" 

Grigory  cursed,  waved  his  whip,  and  dashed 
out  of  the  yard.  Aksinya  ran  after  him,  stum- 
bling in  the  drifted  snow. 

He  overtook  his  father  at  the  top  of  the  hill. 
With  an  effort  of  will,  he  turned  and  looked 
back.  Aksinya  was  standing  at  the  gate,  the 
child  still  pressed  to  her  breast,  the  ends  of 
her  crimson  shawl  fluttering  in  the  wind. 

56.9 


He  rode  his  horse  alongside  his  father's 
sledge.  After  a  few  moments  the  old  man 
turned  his  back  to  his  horses  and  asked: 

"So  you're  not  thinking  of  living  with  your 
wife?" 

"That  old  story  again?  We've  had  that  out 
already.  . .  ." 

"So  you're  not." 

"No,  I'm  not!" 

"You  haven't  heard  that  she  laid  hands  on 
herself?" 

"Yes,  I've  heard.  I  happened  to  meet  a  man 
from  the  village." 

"And  in  the  sight  of  God?" 

"Why,  Father,  after  all  ...  it's  no  use  crying 
over  spilt  milk." 

"Don't  use  that  devil's  talk  to  me.  What  I'm 
saying  to  you,  I'm  saying  for  your  own  good," 
Pantelei  flared  up. 

"I've  a  child  back  there.  What's  the  use  of 
talking?  You  can't  push  the  other  on  to  me 
now.  .  .  ." 

"Are  you  sure  you're  not  rearing  another 
man's  child?" 

Grigory  turned  pale;  his  father  had  touched 
a  sore  spot.  Ever  since  the  child  was  born  he 
had  tormentedly  nursed  the  suspicion  in  his 
mind,  while  concealing  it  from  Aksinya  and 
from  himself.   At    night,    when    Aksinya    was 

364 


asleep,  he  had  more  than  once  gone  to 
the  cradle  and  stared  down  at  the  child, 
seeking  his  own  features  in  its  swarthily 
rosy  face,  and  had  turned  back  to  bed  as 
uncertain  as  before.  Stepan  was  dark-chest- 
nut, almost  as  dark  as  he,  and  how  was 
he  to  know  whose  blood  flowed  in  the  child's 
veins?  At  times  he  thought  the  child  resembled 
him,  at  other  times  she  was  painfully  like  Ste- 
pan. Grigory  had  no  feeling  for  her,  except  per- 
haps hostility  as  he  recalled  the  moments  he 
had  lived  through  when  he  had  driven  Aksinya 
back  from  the  steppes  in  the  throes  of  child- 
birth. Once  when  Aksinya  was  busy  in  the 
kitchen,  he  had  had  to  change  the  child's  wet 
napkin.  As  he  did  so  he  had  felt  a  sharp,  burn- 
ing emotion.  He  had  bent  stealthily  over  the 
cradle  and  pressed  the  baby's  pink  stiff  toe  be- 
tween his  teeth. 

His  father  probed  mercilessly  at  the  wound, 
and  Grigory,  his  palm  resting  on  the  saddle- 
bow, numbly  replied: 

"Whoever  it  belongs  to,  I  won't  leave  the 
child." 

Pantelei  waved  his  whip  at  the  horses  with- 
out turning  round: 

"Natalya's  spoilt  her  good  looks.  She  carries 
her  head  on  one  side  like  a  paralytic.  It  seems 
she  cut  a  tendon."  He  lapsed  into  silence. 

365 


The  runners  creaked  as  they  cut  through  the 
snow;  the  hoofs  of  Grigory's  horse  clicked  as 
they  knocked  together. 

"And  how  is  she  now?"  Grigory  asked, 
studiously  picking  a  burr  out  of  his  horse's 
mane. 

"She  got  over  it  somehow  or  other.  She  was 
laid  up  seven  months.  On  Trinity  Sunday  she 
was  all  but  gone.  Father  Pankraty  came  to  say 
prayers.  And  then  she  began  to  pick  up.  She'd 
tried  to  stab  herself  with  a  scythe  but  her  hand 
shook  and  she  just  missed  her  heart.  It  would 
have  been  the  end  of  her  otherwise.  .  .  ." 

"Quicker  down  the  hill!"  Grigory  said, 
standing  in  his  stirrups  and  using  his  whip; 
the  horse  leaped  forward,  sending  a  shower  of 
snow  from  its  hoofs  over  the  sledge,  and  broke 
into  a  trot. 

"We're  taking  Natalya  in,"  Pantelei  shouted, 
coming  up  with  him.  "The  woman  doesn't 
want  to  live  with  her  own  folk.  I  saw  her  the 
other  day  and  told  her  to  come  to  us." 

Grigory  made  no  reply.  They  drove  as  far  as 
the  first  village  without  exchanging  a  word, 
and  his  father  made  no  further  reference  to 
the  subject. 

That  day  they  covered  seventy  versts.  They 
arrived  at  Mankovo  the  following  evening  as 

366 


dusk  was  falling,  and  spent  the  night  in  the 
quarters  allotted  to  the  Vyeshenskaya  re- 
cruits. 

Next  morning  the  district  ataman  took  the 
Vyeshenskaya  recruits  before  the  medical  com- 
mission. Grigory  fell  in  with  the  other  lads 
from  his  own  village.  In  the  morning  Mitka 
Korshunov,  riding  a  tall  bay  horse  equipped 
v;ith  a  new  and  gaily-ornamented  saddle  and 
harness,  had  passed  Grigory  standing  at  the 
door  of  his  quarters,  but  had  gone  by  without 
a  word  of  greeting. 

The  men  undressed  in  turn  in  the  cold  room 
of  the  local  civil  administration.  Military 
clerks  bustled  around,  and  the  adjutant  to  the 
provincial  ataman  hurried  past  in  short  patent- 
leather  boots.  From  an  inner  room  came  the 
sound  of  the  doctors'  orders,  and  snatches  of 
talk. 

"Sixty-nine." 

"Pavel  Ivanovich,  pass  me  an  indelible  pen- 
cil," croaked  a  drink-sodden  voice  near  the 
door, 

"Chest  measurement.  ..." 

"Yes,  obviously  hereditary. .  . ." 

"Put  down  syphilis." 

"Take  your  hand  away.  You're  not  a  girl." 

"Fine  physique." 

3&7 


".  .  .  Infects  the  whole  village.  Special  meas- 
ures must  be  taken.  I  have  already  reported 
the  matter  to  His  Excellency." 

"Pavel  Ivanovich,  look  at  this  fellow's  phy- 
sique." 

"Oho!" 

Grigory  got  undressed  beside  a  tall  red- 
haired  lad  from  another  village.  A  clerk  came 
out  and,  straightening  his  shoulders  so  that 
his  tunic  creased  at  the  back,  curtly  called  Gri- 
gory and  the  other  lad  into  the  examination 
room. 

"Hurry  up!"  gasped  the  red-head,  blushing 
and  pulling  off  a  sock. 

Grigory  went  in,  his  back  all  goose-flesh 
with  the  cold.  His  swarthy  body  was  the  colour 
of  oak.  He  felt  embarrassed  as  he  glanced 
down  at  his  hairy  legs.  In  the  corner  a  square- 
limbed  lad  was  standing  naked  on  the  scales. 
Someone,  evidently  the  doctor's  assistant, 
flicked  the  weights  to  and  fro,  called  out  a 
figure  and  told  him  to  get  down. 

The  humiliating  procedure  of  the  medical 
examination  irritated  Grigory.  A  grey-haired 
doctor  in  a  white  coat  sounded  him  with  the 
aid  of  a  stethoscope.  A  younger  doctor  turned 
up  his  eyelids  and  looked  at  his  tongue.  Behind 
him  a  third  in  horn-rimmed  spectacles  bustled 
about,  rubbing  his  hands. 

368 


"On  the  scales!"  an  officer  ordered. 

Grigory  stepped  on  to  the  cold  platform, 

"Five  poods  ...  six  and  a  half  pounds." 

"Wha-a-at!  He's  not  particulcirly  tall,  either," 
the  grey-haired  doctor  exclaimed,  turning  Gri- 
gory round  by  the   arm. 

"Astonishing!"  the  younger  man  coughed. 

"How  much?"  an  officer  sitting  at  the  table 
asked  in  surprise. 

"Five  poods,  six  and  a  half  pounds,"  the 
grey-haired  doctor  replied. 

"How  about  the  Lifeguards  for  him?"  the 
district  military  commissary  asked,  bending  a 
black  sleek  head  towards  his  neighbour  at  the 
table. 

"He  has  the  face  of  a  brigand.  .  .  .  Very  sav- 
age-looking. .  .  ." 

"Hey,  turn  round!  What's  that  on  your 
back?"  an  officer  wearing  colonel's  epaulettes 
shouted,  impatiently  tapping  his  finger  on  the 
table.  The  grey-haired  doctor  mumbled  some- 
thing and  Grigory,  trying  to  restrain  the 
trembling  of  his  body,  turned  his  back  to  the 
table  and  replied: 

"I  caught  cold  in  the  spring.  It's  a  boil." 
By  the  end  of  the  examination  the  officers  at 
the  table  had  decided  that  Grigory  would  have 
to  be  drafted  into  an  ordinary  regiment. 

24—1933  369 


"The  Twelfth  Regiment,  Melekhov.  D'yoii 
hear?"  he  was  told.  And  as  he  went  towards 
the  door  he  heard  a  shocked  whispering: 

"It's  impossible.  Just  imagine  it,  if  the  em- 
peror saw  a  face  like  that?  His  eyes  alone. . .  /' 

"He's  a  cross-breed.  From  the  East,  no 
doubt." 

"And  his  body  isn't  clean.  Those  boils.  . .  ." 

Other  men  from  his  village  who  were  wait- 
ing their  turn  crowded  round  Grigory: 

"How  did  it  go,  Grisha?" 

"What  regiment?" 

"The  Lifeguards,  eh?" 

"How  much  did  you  go  on  the  scales?" 

Hopping  on  one  foot  while  he  pushed  his 
legs  into  his  trousers,  Grigory  snapped:  "Oh, 
go  to  hell!  What  regiment?  The  Twelfth." 

"Korshunov,  Dmitry;  Kargin,  Ivan,"  shouted 
the  clerk,  poking  his  head  round  the  door. 

Buttoning  up  his  coat  as  he  went,  Grigory 
ran  down  the  steps. 

The  warm  wind  breathed  of  thaw;  the  road 
was  bare  of  snow  in  places,  and  steaming. 
Clucking  hens  fluttered  across  the  street,  geese 
were  splashing  in  a  puddle;  their  feet  looked 
orange-pink  in  the  water,  like  frost-nipped 
autumn  leaves. 

The  examination  of  the  horses  took  place  the 
following  day.  They  were  all  drawn  up  on  the 

370 


square  in  a  long  line  against  the  church  wall. 
Officers  bustled  to  and  fro;  a  veterinary  sur- 
geon and  his  assistant  passed  down  the  long 
line  of  animals.  The  Vyeshenskaya  ataman 
went  running  from  the  scales  to  the  table  in 
the  middle  of  the  square,  where  the  results  of 
the  examination  were  being  recorded.  A  milita- 
ry police  officer  went  by,  deep  in  conversation 
with  a  young  captain. 

When  his  turn  came,  Grigory  led  his  horse 
to  the  scales.  The  surgeon  and  his  assistant 
measured  every  part  of  the  animal's  body,  then 
weighed  it.  Before  it  could  be  led  from  the 
platform  the  surgeon  had  deftly  taken  it  by  the 
upper  lip,  looked  at  its  teeth,  felt  its  chest 
muscles  and,  running  his  strong  fingers  over 
its  body,  like  a  spider,  reached  its  legs.  He  felt 
the  knee  joints,  tapped  the  tendons,  squeezed 
the  bone  above  the  fetlocks.  When  he  had  fin- 
ished his  examination  he  passed  on,  his  white 
apron  flapping  in  the  wind  and  scattering  the 
scent  of  carbolic  acid. 

Grigory's  horse  was  rejected.  Sashka's  hopes 
had  proved  unjustified,  and  the  experienced 
surgeon  had  been  shrewd  enough  to  discover 
the  secret  blemish  of  which  the  old  man  had 
spoken.  Grigory  at  once  held  an  agitated  con- 
sultation with  his  father,  and  before  half  an 
hour  had  elapsed  he  led  Pyotr's  horse  on    to 

24*  371 


the  scales.  The  surgeon  passed  it  almost  with- 
out examination, 

Grigory  led  the  horse  a  little  way  off,  found 
a  comparatively  dry  spot,  and  spread  out  his 
saddle-cloth  on  the  ground.  His  father  held  his 
horse,  talking  to  another  old  man  who  was  also 
seeing  off  his  son.  Past  them  strode  a  tall,  grey- 
haired  general  in  a  light-grey  cloak  and  a  silver 
astrakhan  cap,  followed  by  a  group  of  officers. 

"That's  the  provincial  ataman,"  Pantelei 
whispered,  nudging  Grigory  from  behind. 

"Looks  like  a  general," 

"Major-General  Makeyev.  He's  a  strict 
devil!" 

A  crowd  of  officers  from  various  regiments 
and  batteries  followed  in  the  wake  of  the  ata- 
man. An  artillery  major,  broad  in  the  hips  and 
shoulders,  was  talking  loudly  to  a  tall  hand- 
some Guards  officer  of  the  Ataman's  Regi- 
ment: 

", , .  What  the  devil !  Such  an  amazing  con- 
trast, you  know!  An  Estonian  village,  the 
majority  of  the  people  blonde,  and  this  girl 
such  a  contrast!  And  she  wasn't  the  only  one! 
We  had  all  sorts  of  guesses  about  it,  and  then 
we  learned  that  twenty  years  ago.  . , ,"  The  of- 
ficers walked  past  the  spot  where  Grigory  was 
arranging  his  equipment  on  his  saddle-cloth 
and  the  wind  brought  him  the  final  words  amid 

372 


a  burst  of  laughter  from  the  officers:  "...Ap- 
parently a  squadron  of  your  Guards  used  to  be 
stationed  in  the  village." 

A  clerk  ran  past  buttoning  his  jacket  with 
trembling  ink-stained  fingers  and  the  district 
assistant  chief  of  police  bellowed  after  him: 

"I  told  you  three  copies.  Confound  you!" 

Grigory  stared  curiously  at  the  unfamiliar 
faces  of  the  officers  and  officials.  An  adjutant 
fixed  a  bored  gaze  on  him,  and  turned  away 
as  he  met  Grigory's  attentive  eyes.  An  old  cap- 
tain went  by  almost  at  a  run,  looking  agitated 
by  something  and  biting  his  upper  lip  with  his 
yellow  teeth.  Grigory  noticed  a  vein  beating 
over  the  captain's  ginger  eyebrow. 

On  his  new  saddle-cloth  Grigory  had  set 
out  his  saddle,  with  its  green  pommel  and  sad- 
dle-bags at  back  and  front;  two  army  coats, 
two  pairs  of  trousers,  a  tunic,  two  pairs  of  top- 
boots,  a  pound  and  a  half  of  biscuit,  a  tin  of 
corned  beef,  groats,  and  other  food  in  the  reg- 
ulation quantities.  In  the  open  saddle-bags 
were  four  horseshoes,  shoe-nails  wrapped  in  a 
greasy  rag,  a  soldier's  hussif  with  a  couple  of 
needles  and  thread,  and  towels. 

He  gave  a  last  glance  over  his  accoutre- 
ments, and  squatted  down  to  rub  some  mud  off 
the  ends  of  the  packstrings  with  his  sleeve. 
From  the  end  of  the    square    the    army    com- 

373 


mission  slowly  passed  along  the  rows  of  Cos- 
sacks drawn  up  behind  their  saddle-cloths.  The 
officers  and  the  ataman  examined  the  equip- 
ment closely,  holding  up  the  edges  of  their 
light-coloured  greatcoats  as  they  stooped  to 
rummage  in  the  saddle-bags,  turned  out  the 
contents  of  the  hussifs,  and  weighed  the  bags 
of  biscuits  in  their  hands, 

"Look  at  that  tall  one  over  there,  lads,"  said 
a  young  Cossack  standing  next  to  Grigory, 
pointing  towards  the  provincial  chief  of  mili- 
tary police,  "scratching  like  a  dog  after  a  pole- 
cat." 

"Just  look  at  the  devil.  Turning  the  bag  in- 
side out!" 

"Something  wrong  there,  or  he  wouldn't  do 
that." 

"Surely  he  isn't  counting  the  shoe-nails." 

"Just  like  a  dog!" 

The  talk  gradually  died  away  as  the  com- 
mission approached.  Only  a  few  more  men  and 
it  would  be  Grigory's  turn.  The  provincial  ata- 
man was  carrying  a  glove  in  his  left  hand  and 
swinging  his  right,  keeping  the  elbow  straight. 
Grigory  drew  himself  up.  Behind  him  his 
father  coughed.  The  wind  carried  the  smell  of 
horse  piss  and  melted  snow  over  the  square. 
The  sun  looked  unhappy,  as  though  after  a 
drinking  bout. 

374 


The   group    of  officers    halted    by  the  man 
next  to  Grigory,  then  came  on  to  him  one  by 
one. 

"Your  surname.  Christian  name?" 
"Melekhov,  Grigory." 

The  police  officer  picked  up  the  greatcoat  by 
its  belt,  smelled  the  lining,  and  hurriedly 
counted  the  fastenings;  another  officer,  wear- 
ing a  cornet's  epaulettes,  felt  the  good  cloth  of 
the  trousers  between  his  fingers.  A  third  stopped 
and  rummaged  in  the  saddle-bags,  stoop- 
ing so  low  that  the  wind  threw  the  skirts  of  his 
greatcoat  on  to  his  back.  With  his  thumb  and 
forefinger  the  police  officer  cautiously  poked 
at  the  rag  containing  shoe-nails  as  though 
afraid  it  might  be  hot,  and  counted  the  nails  in 
a  whisper. 

"Why  are  there  only  twenty-three  nails? 
What  is  this?"  he  angrily  pulled  at  the  corner 
of  the  rag. 

"Not  at  all.  Your  Honour.  Twenty-four." 
"What,  am  I  blind?" 

Grigory  hastily  turned  back  a  folded  corner, 
revealing  the  twenty-fourth  nail.  As  he  did  so 
his  rough  swarthy  fingers  lightly  touched  the 
officer's  sugar-white  hand.  The  officer  snatched 
his  hand  away  as  though  struck,  rubbed  it  on 
the  edge  of  his  greatcoat,  frowning  fastidi- 
ously, and  drew  on  his  glove. 

375 


Grigory  noticed  his  action  and  straightened 
up  with  a  bitter  smile.  Their  eyes  met,  and  the 
officer  flushed  and  raised  his  voice, 

"What's  all  this,  what's  all  this,  Cossack? 
Why  aren't  your  packstrings  in  order?  Why 
aren't  your  snaffles  right?  And  what  does  this 
mean?  Are  you  a  Cossack  or  a  muzhik? 
Where's  your  father?" 

Pantelei  pulled  on  the  horse's  rein  and 
stepped  forward  a  pace,  clicking  his  lame  leg. 

"Don't  you  know  the  Cossack  regulations?" 
the  officer,  who  was  ill-tempered  after  losing 
at  cards  that  morning,  poured  out  his  wrath 
upon  him. 

The  provincial  ataman  came  up,  and  the  of- 
ficer subsided.  The  ataman  thrust  the  toe  of  his 
boot  into  the  padding  of  the  saddle,  hiccupped 
and  passed  on  to  the  next  man.  The  draft  of- 
ficer of  the  regiment  to  which  Grigory  had 
been  drafted  politely  turned  out  all  his  belong- 
ings down  to  the  contents  of  the  hussif,  and 
passed  on  last  of  all,  walking  backwards  to 
shield  a  match  from  the  wind  as  he  lit  a  ciga- 
rette. 

A  day  later  a  train  of  red  railway  trucks 
loaded  with  horses,  Cossacks  and  forage  left 
for  Voronezh.  In  one  of  them  stood  Grigory. 
Past  the  open  door  crawled  an  unfamiliar,  flat 
landscape;  a  blue  and  tender  thread  of  forest 

376 


whirled  by  in  the  distance.  Behind  him  the 
horses  were  munching  hay  and  stepping  from 
hoof  to  hoof  as  they  felt  the  unsteady  floor  be- 
neath them.  The  wagon  smelled  of  wormwood, 
horses'  sweat,  and  the  spring  thaw;  a  distant 
thread  of  forest  lurked  on  the  horizon,  blue, 
pensive,  and  as  inaccessible  as  the  faintly-shin- 
ing evening-star. 


PART    THREE 


I 


t  was  on  a  warm  and 
cheerful  spring  day  in 
March,  1914  that  Nata- 
lya  returned  to  her  father-in-law's  house.  Pan- 
telei  was  mending  the  broken  wattle  fence  with 
fluffy  dove-coloured  twigs.  The  silvery  icicles 
hanging  from  the  roofs  were  dripping,  and  the 
traces  of  former  runnels  showed  like  black  tar 
stains  under  the  eaves.  A  ruddier,  warmer  sun 
caressed  the  melting  hills,  and  the  earth  was 
swelling;  the  early  grass  looked  like  green 
malachite  on  the  bare  chalky  headlands  that 
bulged  from  the  hill  beyond  the  Don. 

Natalya,  thinner  and  much  changed,  ap- 
proached her  father-in-law  from  behind  and 
bowed  her  scarred,  slightly  crooked  neck: 

"Good  health.  Father!" 

"Natalyushka!     Welcome,     my     dear,     wel- 

378 


come!"  Pantelei  exclaimed  fussing  over  her. 
The  twigs  dropped  out  of  his  hand.  "Why 
haven't  you  been  to  see  us?  Come  in.  Mother 
will  be  right  glad  to  see  you." 

"Father,  I've  come.  .  .  ."  Natalya  stretched  out 
her  hand  uncertainly,  and  turned  away.  "If  you 
don't  drive  me  away,  I'd  like  to  stay  with  you 
always,"  she  added. 

"And  why  shouldn't  you.  my  dear?  Are  you 
a  ,stranger  to  us?  Look,  Grigory  has  written 
about  you  in  his  letter.  He's  told  us  to  ask 
about  you." 

They  went  into  the  kitchen.  Pantelei  limped 
about  in  joyful  agitation.  Ilyinichna  wept  as 
she  embraced  Natalya. 

"You  want  a  child,"  she  whispered.  "That 
would  win  him.  Sit  down.  I'll  get  you  some 
pancakes,  shall  I?" 

Dunya,  flushed  and  smiling,  came  running 
into  the  kitchen  and  embraced  Natalya  round 
the  knees.  "You  shameless  thing!  You  forgot 
all  about  us!"  she  reproached  her. 

"Now  then,  you  madcap!"  her  father  shouted 
at  her  with  feigned  severity. 

"How  you've  grown!"  Natalya  murmured, 
pulling  Dunya's  arms  apart  and  looking  into 
her  eyes. 

They  all  talked  together,  interrupting  one 
another.   Ilyinichna,  supporting  her  cheek    on 

S79 


her  palm,  grieved  as  she  looked  at  Natalya,  so 
changed  from  what  she  had  been. 

"You've  come  for  good?"  Dunya  asked, 
clasping  Natalya's  hands. 

"Who   knows  . . .?" 

"Why,  where  else  should  my  own  daughter- 
in-law  live?  You'll  stay  with  us,"  Ilyinichna 
decided,  as  she  pushed  a  platter  of  pancakes 
across  the  table. 

Natalya  had  come  to  her  husband's  parents 
only  after  long  vacillation.  At  first  her  father 
would  not  let  her  go.  He  shouted  at  her  in  in- 
dignation when  she  suggested  it,  and  at- 
tempted to  persuade  her  against  such  a  step. 
But  it  was  difficult  for  her  to  look  her  own 
people  in  the  face;  since  her  attempted  suicide 
she  felt  that  with  her  own  family  she  was  al- 
most a  stranger.  For  his  part,  after  he  had  seen 
Grigory  off  to  the  army  Pantelei  was  continu- 
ally wheedling  her  to  come,  for  he  was  deter- 
mined to  have  her  back  and  to  reconcile  Gri- 
gory to  her. 

From  that  day  in  March  Natalya  lived  with 
the  Melekhovs.  Pyotr  was  friendly  and  broth- 
erly; Darya  gave  little  outward  sign  of  her  dis- 
satisfaction, but  her  occasional  sidelong 
glances  were  more  than  compensated  by  Du- 
nya's  attachment  and  the  parental  attitude  of 
the  old  people. 

330 


The  very  day  after  Nataiya  came  to  ttiem 
Pantelei  ordered  Dunya  to  write  a  letter  to 
Grigory: 

Greetings,  our  own  son,  Grigory  Panteleye- 
vich!  We  send  you  a  deep  bow,  and  horn  all 
my  fatherly  heart,  with  your  mother  Vasilisa 
llyinichna,  a  parental  blessing.  Your  brother 
Pyotr  Panteleyevich  and  his  wife  Darya  Mat- 
veyeuna  greet  you  and  wish  you  health  and 
well-being;  also  your  sister  Dunya  and  all  at 
home  greet  you.  We  received  your  letter,  sent 
in  February,  the  fifth  day,  and  heartily  thank 
you  for  it.  And  as  you  wrote  that  the  horse  is 
knocking  his  legs  smear  him  with  some  lard, 
you  know  how,  and  don't  shoe  his  hind  hoofs 
so  long  as  there  is  no  slipperiness  or  bare  ice 
about.  Your  wife  Nataiya  Mironovna  is  living 
with  us  and  is  well  and  comfortable.  Your 
mother  sends  you  some  dried  cherries  and  a 
pair  of  woollen  socks,  and  some  bacon  and 
other  things.  We  are  all  alive  and  well,  but 
Darya's  baby  has  died.  The  other  day  Pyotr 
and  I  roofed  the  shed,  and  he  orders  you  to 
look  after  the  horse  and  keep  it  well.  The  cows 
have  calved,  the  old  mare  seems  to  be  in  foal, 
we  put  a  stallion  from  the  district  stables  to 
her.  We  are  glad  to  hear  about  your  service 
and  that  your  officers  are  pleased   with   you. 

381 


§erue  as  you  should.  Service  for  the  Tsar  will 
not  be  in  vain.  And  Natalya  will  live  with  us 
now,  and  you  think  that  over.  And  one  other 
trouble,  just  before  Lent  a  wolf  killed  three 
sheep.  Now,  keep  well,  and  in  Cod's  keeping. 
Don't  forget  your  wife,  that  is  my  order  to 
you.  She  is  a  good  woman  and  your  legal  wife. 
Don't  break  the  furrow,  and  listen  to  your 
father. 

Your  father.  Senior  Sergeant 

Pantelei  Melekhov. 

Grigory's  regiment  was  stationed  at  a  little 
place  called  Radzivillovo  some  four  versts 
from  the  Russo-Austrian  frontier.  He  rarely 
wrote  home.  To  the  letter  informing  him  that 
Natalya  was  living  with  his  father  he  wrote 
a  cautiously  worded  reply,  and  asked  his 
father  to  greet  her  in  his  name.  All  his  letters 
were  non-com.mittal  and  obscure  in  their  mean- 
ing. Pantelei  made  Dunya  or  Pyotr  read  them 
to  him  several  times,  pondering  over  the 
thought  concealed  between  the  lines.  Just  be- 
fore Easter  he  wrote  and  asked  Grigory  defi- 
nitely whether  on  his  return  from  the  army  he 
would  live  with  his  wife  or  with  Aksinya  as 
before. 

Grigory  delayed  his  reply.  Only  after  Trin- 
ity Sunday  did  they  receive  a  brief  letter  from 

382 


him.  Dunya  read  it  quickly,  swallowing  the 
ends  of  her  words,  and  Pantelei  had  difficulty 
in  grasping  the  essential  thought  among  the 
numerous  greetings  and  inquiries.  At  the  end 
of  the  letter  Grigory  dealt  with  the  question  of 
Natalya : 

You  asked  me  to  say  whether  I  shall  live 
with  Natalya  or  not,  but  I  tell  you.  Father,  once 
a  thing's  been  cut  oft,  you  can't  stick  it  on 
again.  And  how  shall  I  make  it  up  with  Nata- 
lya, when  you  know  yourseli  that  I  have  a 
child.  And  1  can't  promise  anything,  it  is  pain- 
ful for  me  to  talk  about  it.  The  other  day  a  fel- 
low was  caught  smuggling  goods  across  the 
frontier  and  we  happened  to  see  him.  He  said 
there  would  be  war  with  the  Austrians  soon, 
that  their  tsar  has  come  to  the  frontier  to  see 
where  to  begin  the  war  from  and  which  land  to 
grab  tor  himself.  If  war  begins  maybe  I  shan't 
be  left  alive,  and  nothing  pan  be  settled  be- 
iorehand. 

Natalya  worked  for  her  foster-parents  and 
lived  in  continual  hope  of  her  husband's  re- 
turn. She  never  wrote  to  Grigory,  but  nobody 
in  the  family  yearned  with  more  pain  and  de- 
sire to  receive  a  letter  from  him. 

Life  in  the  village  continued  in  its  inviolable 
order,  Cossacks  who  had  served  their  term  in 

383 


the  army  returned  home,  on  workdays  dull 
labour  imperceptibly  consumed  the  time,  on 
Sunday  mornings  the  village  poured  in  family 
droves  into  the  church:  the  Cossacks  in  tunics 
and  holiday  trousers,  the  women  in  long,  col- 
oured skirts  that  swept  the  dust,  and  embroi- 
dered blouses  with  puff  sleeves. 

In  the  square  stood  empty  wagons,  their 
shafts  high  in  the  air,  horses  whinnied  and  all 
kinds  of  people  went  to  and  fro;  by  the  fireshed 
the  Bulgar  settlers  traded  in  vegetables  set  out 
in  long  rows;  behind  them  the  children  ran 
about  in  bands  and  stared  at  the  unharnessed 
camels  superciliously  surveying  the  market 
square.  Everywhere  were  crowds  of  men  wear- 
ing red-banded  caps,  and  women  in  bright 
kerchiefs.  The  camels,  their  eyes  glazed  with  a 
torpid  green,  chewed  the  cud  as  they  rested 
from  their  constant  toil  on  the  water-wheels. 

In  the  evening  the  streets  groaned  with  the 
tramp  of  feet,  with  song,  and  dancing  to  the 
accordions;  and  only  late  at  night  did  the 
last  voices  die  away  on  the  outskirts  of  the 
village. 

Natalya,  who  never  went  to  the  evening 
gatherings,  sat  listening  gladly  to  Dunya's 
artless  stories.  Imperceptibly  Dunya  was  grow- 
ing into  a  shapely  and,  in  her  way,  good-look- 
ing girl.  She  matured  early,  like  an  early  apple. 

384 


That  year  her  elder  girl-friends  forgot  that 
they  had  reached  adolescence  before  her 
and  took  her  into  their  circle.  Dunya  was  like 
her  father,  dark  and  sturdy.  She  was  fifteen 
now,  her  figure  still  girlish  and  angular.  She 
was  an  artless,  almost  pitiful  mixture  of  child- 
hood and  blossoming  youth;  her  small  breasts 
grew  and  pressed  noticeably  against  Her 
blouse;  and  her  black  eyes  in  their  long,  rather 
slanting  sockets,  still  sparkled  bashfully  and 
mischievously.  She  would  come  back  after  an 
evening  out  and  tell  only  Natalya  her  innocent 
secrets. 

"Natalya,  I  want  to  tell  you  something.  .  .  ." 

"Well,  tell  on!" 

"Yesterday  Misha  Koshevoi  sat  the  whole 
evening  with  me  on  the  stump  by  the  village 
granaries." 

"Why  are  you  blushing?" 

"Oh,  I'm  not!" 

"Look  in  the  glass;  you're  all  one  great 
flame." 

"Well,  you  made  me." 

"All  right,  go  on,  I  won't  say  a  thing." 

Dunya  rubbed  her  burning  cheeks  with  her 
brown  palms,  pressed  her  fingers  to  her  tem- 
ples, and  her  laughter  tinkled  out  youthfully 
and  without  cause. 

"He  said  I  was  like  a  little  azure  flower." 

25—1933  385 


"Well,  go  on!"  Natalya  encouraged  her,  re- 
joicing in  another's  joy,  forgetting  her  own 
past  and  downtrodden  happiness. 

"And  I  said:  'Don't  tell  lies,  Misha!'  And  he 
swore  it  was  true." 

Shaking  her  head,  Dunya  sent  her  laughter 
pealing  through  the  room.  The  black,  heavy 
plaits  of  her  hair  slipped  like  lizards  over  her 
shoulders  and  back. 

"What  else  did  he  say?" 

"He  asked  me  to  give  him  my  hanky  for  a 
keepsake." 

"And  did  you?" 

"No.  I  said  I  wouldn't.  'Go  and  ask  your 
woman,'  I  told  him.  He's  been  seen  with  Yero- 
feyev's  daughter-in-law,  and  she's  a  bad  wom- 
an, she  plays  about  with  the  men." 

"You'd  better  keep  away  from  him." 

"I'm  going  to!"  Dunya  continued  her  story, 
trying  to  hide  the  smile  that  came  to  her  lips. 
"And  then,  as  the  three  of  us,  two  other  girls 
and  me,  were  coming  home,  drunken  old 
Grandpa  Mikhei  came  after  us.  'Kiss  me,  my 
dears,  and  I'll  pay  you  two  kopecks  apiece,'  he 
shouted.  And  Nyura  hit  him  on  the  face  with 
a  twig  and  we  ran  away." 

The  summer  was  dry.  By  the  village  the  Don 
grew  shallow,  and  where  the  surging  current 
had  run  swiftly  a  ford  was  made,  and  bullocks 

386 


could  cross  to  the  other  bank  without  wetting 
their  backs.  At  night  a  sultry  stuffiness  flowed 
down  into  the  village  from  the  range  of  hills, 
and  the  wind  filled  the  air  with  the  spicy  scent 
of  scorched  grass.  The  dry  growth  of  the 
steppe  was  afire,  and  a  sickly-smelling  haze 
hung  over  the  Don-side  slopes.  At  night  the 
clouds  deepened  over  the  river  and  ominous 
peals  of  thunder  were  heard;  but  no  rain  came 
to  refresh  the  pardhed  earth,  although  the 
lightning  rent  the  sky  into  jagged,  livid  frag- 
ments. 

Night  after  night  an  owl  screeched  from  the 
belfry.  The  cries  surged  terrifyingly  over  the 
village,  and  the  owl  flew  from  the  belfry  to  the 
cemetery  and  moaned  over  the  brownish  grassy 
mounds  of  the  graves. 

"There's  trouble  brewing,"  the  old  men  proph- 
esied, as  they  listened  to  the  owl  screeching 
from  the  cemetery. 

"There's  war  coming.  An  owl  called  just  like 
that  before  the  Turkish  campaign." 

"Perhaps   there  will  be  cholera  again." 

"Expect  no  good  when  it  flies  from  the 
church  to  the  dead." 

For  two  nights  Martin  Shamil,  who  lived 
close  to  the  cemetery,  lay  in  wait  by  the  ceme- 
tery fence  for  the  accursed  owl,  but  the  invis- 
ible,   mysterious    bird    flew    noiselessly    over 

25*  387 


him,  alighted  on  a  cross  at  the  other  end  of 
the  cemetery,  and  sent  its  alarming  cries  over 
the  sleepy  village.  Martin  swore  indecently, 
shot  at  the  black,  hanging  belly  of  a  cloud, 
and  went  home.  On  his  return  his  wife,  a 
timorous,  ailing  woman  as  fertile  as  a  doe  rab- 
bit, greated  him  with  reproaches. 

"You're  a  fool,  a  hopeless  fool!"  she  de- 
clared. "The  bird  doesn't  interfere  with  you, 
does  it?  What  if  God  should  punish  you?  Here 
I  am  in  my  last  month  and  suppose  I  don't 
give  birth  because  of  you." 

"Shut  up,  woman!"  Martin  ordered  her. 
"You'll  be  all  right,  never  fear!  What's  that 
bird  doing  here,  giving  us  all  the  cold 
shivers?  It's  calling  down  woe  on  us,  the  dev- 
il! If  war  breaks  out  they'll  take  me  off,  and 
look  at  the  litter  you've  given  me!"  He  waved 
at  the  corner  where  the  children  were  sleeping. 
Talking  with  the  old  men  in  the  market 
place,  Pantelei  solemnly  announced: 

"Our  Grigory  \mtes  that  the  Austrian  tsar 
has  come  to  the  frontier,  and  has  given  orders 
to  collect  all  his  troops  in  one  place  and  to 
march   on  Moscow  and  Petersburg." 

The    old  men  remembered  past    wars,    and 
shared  their  apprehensions  with  one   another. 
"But  there  won't  be  any  war,"  one  objected. 
"Look  at  the  harvest." 

38S 


"The  harvest  has  nothing  to  do  with  it.  It's 
the  students  giving  trouble,  I  expect." 

"In  any  case  we  shall  be  the  last  to  hear  of 
it.  But  who  will  the  war  be  with?" 

"With  the  Turks,  about  the  sea.  They  can't 
come  to  an  agreement  on  how  to  divide  the 
sea." 

"Is  it  so  difficult?  Let  them  divide  it  into 
two  strips,  like  we  do  the  meadowland." 

The  talk  turned  to  jest,  and  the  old  men 
went  about  their  business. 

The  early  meadow  hay  was  waiting  to  be 
mown.  The  fading  grass  beyond  the  Don, 
which  was  not  a  patch  on  the  grass  of  the 
steppe,  was  sickly  and  scentless.  It  was  the 
same  earth,  yet  the  grass  drank  in  different 
juices.  In  the  steppe  there  was  black  soil,  so 
heavy  and  firm  that  the  herd  left  no  traces 
where  they  passed  over  it.  The  grass  there  was 
strong  and  fragrant.  But  along  the  Don  banks 
the  soil  was  damp  and  rotten,  growing  a  poor 
and  scrubby  grass  which  even  the  cattle  would 
not  always  look  at. 

Haymaking  was  about  to  begin  when  an 
event  occurred  which  shook  the  village  from 
one  end  to  the  other.  The  district  chief  of  po- 
lice arrived  with  an  inspector  and  a  little  black- 
toothed  officer  in  a  uniform  never  seen  before 
in  the  village.  They  sent  for  the  ataman,    col- 

389 


lected  witnesses,  and  then  went  straight  to 
cross-eyed  Lukeshka's  house.  They  walked 
along  the  path  on  the  sunlit  side  of  the  street, 
the  village  ataman  running  ahead  like  a 
cockerel.  The  inspector,  his  dusty  boots  stamp- 
ing on  the  blobs  of  sunlight,  questioned  him: 

"Is  Stockman  at  home?" 

"Yes,  Your  Honour." 

"What  does  he  do  for  a  living?" 

"He's  just  a  craftsman.  Works  with  his 
plane. .  .  ." 

"You  haven't  noticed  anything  suspicious 
about  him?" 

"Not  at  all." 

As  the  police  chief  walked  along,  hat  in 
hand,  he  squeezed  a  pimple  on  the  bridge  of  his 
nose  and  panted  in  his  thick  uniform.  The  little 
officer  picked  his  black  teeth  with  a  straw  and 
puckered  his  red-rimmed  eyes. 

"Does  he  ever  have  visitors?"  the  inspector 
asked,  pulling  the  ataman  back. 

"Yes,  they  play  cards  sometimes." 

"Who?" 

"Chiefly  labourers  from  the  mill." 

"Who  exactly?" 

"The  engineman,  the  scalesman,  the  roller- 
man  David,  and  sometimes  some  of  our  Cos- 
sacks." 

The  inspector  halted  and  waited  for  the  of- 

390 


ficer,  who  had  lagged  behind.  He  said  some- 
thing to  him,  twisting  a  button  on  his  tunic, 
then  beckoned  to  the  ataman.  The  ataman 
ran  up  on  tiptoe,  holding  his  breath.  Knotted 
veins  throbbed  and  quivered  in  his  neck. 

"Take  two  of  those  on  duty  and  arrest  the 
men  you  mentioned.  Bring  them  to  the  admin- 
istration, and  we'll  be  along  in  a  minute  or 
two.  Do  you  understand?" 

The  ataman  drew  himself  up  so  that  the 
veins  bulged  over  his  high  collar,  uttered  a 
kind  of  grunt  and  turned  away  to  execute  his 
instructions. 

Stockman,  his  vest  unbuttoned,  was  sitting 
with  his  back  to  the  door,  cutting  out  a  ply- 
wood pattern  with  a  fret-saw. 

"Kindly  stand  up;  you're  under  arrest." 

"What  for?" 

"You  occupy  two  rooms?" 

"Yes." 

"We  shall  search  them." 

The  officer  caught  his  spur  on  the  doormat, 
walked  across  to  the  table  and  with  a  frown 
picked  up  the  first  book  that  came  to  hand. 

"I  want  the  key  of  that  trunk." 

"To  what  do  I  owe  this  visit?" 

"There'll  be  time  to  talk  to  you  afterwards." 

Stockman's  wife  looked  through  the  door- 
way from  the  other  room  and  drew  back.  The 

391 


inspector  and  his  clerk  followed  her  into  the 
other  room. 

"What's  this?"  the  officer  asked  Stockman 
quietly,  holding  up  a  book  in  a  yellow  cover. 

"A  book,"  Stockman  replied  with   a   shrug. 

"You  can  keep  your  witticisms  for  a  more 
suitable  occasion.  Answer  the  question  prop- 
erly." 

Suppressing  a  wry  smile  Stockman  leaned 
his  back  against  the  stove.  The  district  chief  of 
police  glanced  over  the  officer's  shoulder  at 
the  book,  and  then  turned  to  Stockman: 

"Are  you  studying  this?" 

"I'm  interested  in  the  subject,"  Stockman 
replied  drily,  parting  his  black  beard  into  two 
equal  strands  with  a  small  comb. 

"I  see!" 

The  officer  glanced  through  the  pages  of  the 
book  and  threw  it  back  on  the  table.  He  looked 
through  a  second,  put  it  aside,  and  having  read 
the  cover  of  the  third,  turned  to  Stockman 
again. 

"Where  do  you  keep  the  rest  of  this  type  of 
literature?" 

Stockman  screwed  up  one  eye  as  though 
taking  aim,  and  replied: 

"You  see  all  that  I  have." 

"You're  lying,"  the  officer  retorted,  waving 
the  book  at  him. 

392 


"I  demand.  ..." 

"Search  the  rooms!" 

Gripping  the  hilt  of  his  sabre,  the  chief  of 
police  went  across  to  the  trunk,  where  a  pock- 
marked Cossack  guard,  obviously  terrified  by 
the  circumstances  in  which  he  found  himself, 
had  begun  to  rummage  among  the  clothing 
and  linen. 

"I  demand  polite  treatment,"  Stockman  man- 
aged to  say  at  last,  screwing  up  his  eye  and 
aiming  at  the  bridge  of  the  officer's  nose. 

"Be  quiet,  fellow." 

The  men  turned  out  everything  that  it  was 
possible  to  turn  out.  The  search  was  con- 
ducted in  the  workshop  also.  The  zealous  in- 
spector even  knocked  on  the  walls  with  his 
knuckles. 

When  the  search  was  over.  Stockman  was 
taken  to  the  administration  office.  He  walked 
along  the  middle  of  the  road  in  front  of  the 
Cossack  guard,  one  hand  tucked  into  the  lapel 
of  his  old  coat,  the  other  swinging  as  though 
he  were  shaking  mud  off  his  fingers.  The 
others  walked  along  the  sunlit  path  by  the 
walls;  and  again  the  inspector  trod  on  the 
blobs  of  sunlight  with  his  boots  that  were  now 
green  from  the  grass.  He  was  no  longer  carry- 
ing his  hat  in  his  hand,  but  had  clamped  it 
down  firmly  over  his  gristly  ears. 

393 


Stockman  was  the  last  of  the  prisoners  to  be 
examined.  Ivan  Alexeyevich,  with  hands  still 
oily,  the  smiling  David,  Knave  with  his  jacket 
over  his  shoulders,  and  Misha  Koshevoi,  who 
had  already  been  questioned,  were  herded  to- 
gether in  the  ante-room,  guarded  by  Cossacks. 

Rummaging  in  his  portfolio  the  inspector 
questioned  Stockman: 

"When  I  examined  you  in  regard  to  the 
manslaughter  at  the  mill  why  did  you  conceal 
the  fact  that  you  are  a  member  of  the  Russian 
Social-Democratic  Labour  Party?" 

Stockman  stared  silently  over  the  investiga- 
tor's head. 

"That  much  is  established.  You  will  receive 
a  suitable  reward  for  your  work,"  the  inspector 
shouted,  annoyed  by  the  prisoner's  silence. 

"Please  begin  your  examination,"  Stockman 
said  in  a  bored  tone,  and  glancing  at  a  stool, 
he  asked  for  permission  to  sit  down.  The  in- 
spector did  not  reply,  but  glared  as  Stockman 
calmly  seated  himself. 

"When  did  you  come  here?" 

"Last  year." 

"On  the  instructions  of  your  organization?" 

"Without  any  instructions." 

"How  long  have  you  been  a  member  of  your 
party?" 

"What  are  you  talking  about?" 

394 


"I  ask  you,  how  long  have  you  been  a  mem- 
ber of  the  Russian  Social-Democratic  Labour 
Party?" 

"I  think  that " 

"I  don't  care  what  you  think.  Answer  the 
question.  Denial  is  useless,  even  dangerous." 
The  inspector  drew  a  document  out  of  his  port- 
folio and  pinned  it  to  the  table  with  his  fore- 
finger. "1  have  here  a  report  from  Rostov,  con- 
firming your  membership  in  the  party  I  men- 
tioned." 

Stockman  turned  his  eyes  quickly  to  the  doc- 
ument, rested  his  gaze  on  it  for  a  moment, 
and  then,  stroking  his  knee,  replied  firmly: 

"Since  1907." 

"I  see!  You  deny  that  you  have  been  sent 
here  by  your  party?" 

"Yes." 

"In  that  case  why  did  you  come  here?" 

"There  seemed  to  be  a  shortage  of  mechan- 
ics here." 

"But  why  did  you  choose  this  particular  dis- 
trict?" 

"For  the  same  reason." 

"Have  you  now,  or  have  you  at  any  time 
had  any  contact  with  your  organization  during 
the  period  of  your  stay  here?" 

"No." 

"Do  they  know  you  have  come  here?" 

395 


"I  expect  so." 

The  inspector  sharpened  his  pencil  with  a 
pearl-handled  penknife,  and  pursed  his  lips: 

"Are  you  in  correspondence  with  any  mem- 
bers of  your  party?" 

"No." 

"Then  what  about  the  letter  which  was 
discovered  during  the  search?" 

"That  is  from  a  friend  who  has  no  connec- 
tion whatever  with  any  revolutionary  organ- 
ization." 

"Have  you  received  any  instructions  from 
Rostov?" 

"No." 

"What  did  the  labourers  at  the  mill  gather 
in  your  rooms  for?" 

Stockman  shrugged  his  shoulders  as  though 
astonished  at  the  stupidity  of  the  question. 

"They  used  to  come  along  in  the  winter 
evenings,  to  pass  the  time  away.  We  played 
cards.  .  .  ." 

"And  read  books  prohibited  by  law?"  the 
inspector  suggested. 

"No.  Everyone  of  them  was  almost  illiter- 
ate." 

"Nonetheless  the  engineman  from  the  mill, 
and  the  others  also  do  not  deny  this  fact." 

"That  is  untrue." 

"It  seems   to  me  you  haven't   even  an  ele- 

396 


mentary  understanding  of  .  ,  ."  Stockman 
smiled  at  this,  and  the  inspector,  forgetting 
what  he  had  been  going  to  say,  concluded: 
"You  simply  have  no  sense.  You  persist  in 
denials  that  are  to  your  own  disadvantage.  It 
is  quite  clear  that  you've  been  sent  here  by 
your  party  in  order  to  carry  on  demoralizing 
activities  among  the  Cossacks,  in  order  to  turn 
them  against  the  government.  I  fail  to  under- 
stand why  you're  playing  this  game  of  pre- 
tence. It  can't  diminish  your  offence. .  .  ." 

"Those  are  all  quesses  on  your  part.  May  I 
smoke?  Thank  you.  And  they  are  guesses  en- 
tirely without  foundation." 

"Did  you  read  this  book  to  the  workers  who 
visited  your  rooms?"  the  inspector  put  his 
hand  on  a  small  book  and  covered  the  title. 
Above  his  hand  the  name  "Plekhanov"  was 
visible. 

"We  read  poetry,"  Stockman  replied,  and 
puffed  at  his  cigarette,  gripping  the  bone  holder 
tightly  between  his  fingers. 

The  next  morning  the  postal  tarantass  drove 
out  of  the  village  with  Stockman  dozing  on  the 
back  seat,  his  beard  buried  in  his  coat  collar. 
On  each  side  of  him  a  Cossack  armed  with  a 
sabre  was  squeezed  on  the  seat.  One  of  them,  a 
curly-headed  pock-marked  fellow,  gripped  Stock- 
man's elbow  firmly  in  his  knotty,  dirty  fingers, 

397 


casting  timorous  sidelong  glances  at  him,  and 
keeping  his  other  hand  on  his  battered  scab- 
bard. The  tarantass  rattled  briskly  down  the 
street.  By  the  Melekhovs'  farmyard  a  little 
woman  wrapped  in  a  shawl  stood  waiting  for 
it,  her  back  against  the  wattle  fence. 

The  tarantass  sped  past,  and  the  woman, 
pressing  her  hands  to  her  breast,  flung  herself 
after  it. 

"Osip!  Osip  Davydovich!  Oh,  what  shall  I 
do. .  .  ." 

Stockman  attempted  to  wave  his  hand  to 
her,  but  the  pock-marked  Cossack  jumped  up 
and  clutched  his  arm,  and  in  a  hoarse,  savage 
voice  shouted: 

"Sit  down,   or  I'll  cut  you  down!" 

For  the  first  time  in  all  his  simple  life  he 
had  seen  a  man  who  dared  to  act  against  the 
tsar  himself. 

II 

The  long  road  from  Mankovo  to  the  little 
town  of  Radzivillovo  lay  somewhere  behind 
him  in  a  grey,  intangible  mist.  Grigory  tried 
occasionally  to  recall  the  road,  but  could  only 
dimly  remember  station  buildings,  the  train 
wheels  clattering  beneath  the  shaking  floor, 
the  scent  of  horses  and  hay,  endless  threads 
of  railway  line  flowing  under  them,  the  smoke 

398 


that  billowed  from  the  engine,  and  the  bearded 
face  of  a  gendarme  on  the  station  platform 
either  at  Voronezh  or  at  Kiev,  he  was  not  sure 
which. 

At  the  place  where  they  detrained  were 
crowds  of  officers,  and  clean-shaven  men  in 
grey  overcoats,  talking  a  language  he  could 
not  understand.  It  took  a  long  time  for -the 
horses  to  be  unloaded,  but  when  this  had  been 
accomplished  the  assistant  echelon  commander 
led  three  hundred  or  more  Cossacks  to  the 
veterinary  hospital.  A  long  procedure  in  con- 
nection with  the  examination  of  the  horses. 
Then  allotment  to  troops.  N.C.O.'s  bustling 
about.  The  First  Troop  was  formed  of  light- 
brown  horses,  the  Second  of  bay  and  dun,  the 
Third  of  dark-brown.  Grigory  was  allotted  to 
the  Fourth,  which  consisted  of  plain  brown 
and  golden  horses.  The  Fifth  was  composed 
entirely  of  sorrel,  and  the  Sixth  of  black  horses. 
The  troops  were  put  under  the  command  of 
sergeants-major,  who  took  them  out  to  the 
various  cavalry  squadrons  stationed  at  villages 
and  estates  in  the  neighbourhood. 

The  debonair  pop-eyed  sergeant-major  wear- 
ing long-service  badges  rode  past  Grigory  and 
asked: 

"What  stanitsa  are  you  from?" 

"Vyeshenskaya." 

399 


"Are  you  bob-tailed*?" 

The  Cossacks  from  other  stanitsas  chuckled 
and  Grigory  swallowed  the  insult  in  silence. 

The  road  taken  by  Grigory's  troop  led  them 
along  the  highway.  The  Don  horses,  which  had 
never  seen  proper  highways  before,  at  first 
stepped  along  gingerly,  as  if  on  an  ice-bound 
river,  setting  their  ears  back  and  snorting; 
but  after  a  while  they  got  the  feel  of  the  road 
and  their  fresh-shod  hoofs  clattered  sharply  as 
they  moved  on.  The  unfamiliar  Polish  land  was 
criss-crossed  with  slices  of  straggling  forest. 
The  day  was  warm  and  overcast,  and  the  sun 
hovering  behind  a  dense  curtain  of  cloud  also 
seemed  alien  and  unfamiliar. 

The  estate  of  Radzivillovo  was  some  four 
versts  from  the  station,  and  they  reached  it 
in  half  an  hour. 

"What  village  is  this,  uncle?"  a  young  Cos- 
sack asked  the  sergeant-major,  pointing  to  the 
naked  tree  tops  in  a  garden. 

"What  village?  You  forget  about  your  Cos- 
sack villages  here,  my  lad,  this  isn't  the  Don 
Province." 

"What  is  it  then,  uncle?" 


*  Each   stanitsa    had    a    nickname.    Vyeshenskaya    was 
known  as  Dogs. 

400 


"I,  your  uncle?  A  fine  nephew  you  make! 
That,  my  lad,  is  the  estate  of  Princess  Urusova, 
Our  Fourth  Company  is  quartered  here." 

Despondently  stroking  his  horse's  neck,  Gri- 
gory  stared  at  the  neatly-built,  two-storied 
house,  the  wooden  fence,  and  the  unfamiliar 
style  of  the  farm  buildings.  But  as  they  rode 
past  the  orchard  the  bare  trees  whispered  the 
same  language  as  those  in  the  distant  Don 
country. 

Life  now  showed  its  most  tedious,  stupefy- 
ing side  to  the  Cossacks.  Deprived  of  work, 
the  young  men  quickly  grew  homesick,  and 
spent  most  of  their  free  time  talking.  Grigory's 
troop  was  quartered  in  a  great  tile-roofed  wing 
of  the  house,  sleeping  on  pallet  beds  under  the 
windows.  At  night  the  paper  pasted  over  the 
chinks  of  the  window  sounded  in  the  breeze 
like  a  distant  shepherd's  horn,  and  as  he  lis- 
tened to  it  amid  the  snoring  Grigory  was  seized 
with  a  well-nigh  irresistible  desire  to  get  up, 
go  to  the  stables,  saddle  his  horse  and  ride 
and  ride  until  he  reached  home  again. 

Reveille  was  sounded  at  five  o'clock,  and  the 
first  duty  of  the  day  was  to  clean  and  groom 
the  horses.  During  the  brief  half-hour  when 
the  horses  were  feeding  there  was  opportunity 
for   desultory   conversation. 

"This  is  a  hell  of  a  life,  boys!" 

26—1933  401 


"1  can't  stick  it." 

"And  the  sergeant-major!  What  a  swine! 
Making  us  wash  the  horses'  hoofs!" 

"They're  making  the  pancakes  at  home  now 
.  ,  .  today  is  Shrove-Tuesday." 

"I  could  just  do  with  a  spot  of  necking." 

"I  had  a  dream  last  night,  lads,  I  dreamed 
that  Father  and  me  were  mowing  hay  in  the 
meadow  and  the  village  folk  were  all  scattered 
round  like  daisies  on  a  threshing-floor,"  said 
Prokhor  Zykov,  a  quiet  lad  with  gentle  calf- 
like eyes.  "And  we  just  went  on  mowing  and 
mowing.  .  .  .  Made  me  feel  right  cheerful!" 

"I  bet  my  wife  is  saying:  'I  wonder  what 
my  Nikolai  is  doing?'  " 

"Ho-ho-ho!  She'll  be  belly-rubbing  with  your 
father  most  likely!" 

"Well,  that's " 

"There  isn't  a  woman  in  the  world  who  won't 
try  another  man  when  her  husband's  away." 

"Why  worry?  A  woman's  not  a  jug  of  milk. 
There'll  be  enough  left  for  us  when  we  get 
back." 

Yegor  Zharkov,  the  gayest,  lewdest  man  in 
the  company,  who  had  little  respect  for  any- 
one and  still  less  shame,  broke  into  the  conver- 
sation, winking  and  smiling  suggestively: 

"It's  a  sure  thing:  your  father  won't  leave 
your  wife  alone.  He's  a  fine  he-dog.  I'll  tell  you 

402 


a  story,"  he  added,  sweeping  his  listeners  with 
his  glittering  glance. 

"One  old  grumble  kept  running  after  his 
daughter-in-law,  gave  her  no  rest,  but  his  son 
was  always  in  the  way.  So  what  did  the  old 
man  do?  At  night  he  went  into  the  yard  and 
opened  the  gate.  And  all  the  cattle  got  out. 
So  he  says  to  his  son:  "What  have  you  done, 
you  lazy  so-and-so?  Why  didn't  you  shut  the 
gate?  Look,  all  the  cattle  have  wandered  out. 
Go  and  drive  them  back.'  You  see,  he  thought 
when  his  son  had  gone  he'd  have  time  to  get 
at  his  daughter-in-law.  But  his  son  was  lazy 
and  whispered  to  his  wife:  'You  go  and  drive 
them  back.'  So  she  went  out,  and  he  lay  there, 
listening.  The  father  slipped  down  from  the 
stove  and  crawled  over  on  his  hands  and  knees 
towards  the  bed.  But  his  son  was  no  fool.  He 
took  a  rolling-pin  from  the  shelf  and  waited. 
As  soon  as  his  father  crawled  up  to  the  bed 
and  put  his  hand  on  him,  he  gave  him  such 
a  whack  with  the  pin  right  across  his  bold 
head.  'Go  away,'  he  shouted,  'don't  you  chew 
my  blanket,  curse  you.' 

"You  see,  they  had  a  calf  in  the  house  which 
had  a  habit  of  chewing  things,  so  the  son  pre- 
tended he  had  struck  the  calf.  The  old  man 
managed  to  crawl  back  to  his  stove  and  lay 
there,  tenderly  fingering  the  bump  which  was  as 

26*  403 


big  as  a  goose  egg.  'Ivan/  says  he  at  last,  'who 
did  you  strike  just  now?'  'Only  the  calf/  Ivan 
answers.  'What  kind  of  a  master  will  you 
make/  says  the  old  man  almost  in  tears,  'if  you 
knock  the  cattle  about  like  that?'  " 

"You're  a  mighty  good  liar!" 

"What's  this,  the  market-place?  Break  it  up!" 
shouted  the  sergeant-major,  coming  up  to 
them.  The  Cossacks  went  to  their  horses,  laugh- 
ing and  joking. 

During  exercise  the  officers  stood  smoking 
at  the  side  of  the  yard,  occasionally  interven- 
ing. As  Grigory  glanced  at  the  polished,  well- 
groomed  officers  in  their  handsome  grey  great- 
coats and  closely-fitting  uniforms,  he  felt  that 
there  was  an  impassable  wall  between  them 
and  himself.  Their  very  different,  comfortable, 
well-ordered  existence,  so  unlike  that  of  the 
Cossacks,  flowed  on  peacefully,  untroubled  by 
mud,  lice,  or  fear  of  the  sergeant-major's  fists. 

An  incident  which  occurred  on  the  third  day 
after  their  arrival  at  Radzivillovo  made  a  pain- 
ful impression  on  Grigory,  and  indeed  on  all 
the  young  Cossacks.  They  were  being  instructed 
in  cavalry  drill,  and  the  horse  ridden  by  Pro- 
khor  Zykov,  the  lad  with  gentle  eyes,  who  of- 
ten dreamed  of  his  faraway  Cossack  village, 
was  a  wild,  spirited  animal  and  happened  to 
kick  the  sergeant-major's  mount  as  it  passed, 

404 


The  blow  was  not  very  hard  and  it  only 
grazed  the  skin  on  the  horse's  left  leg.  But 
the  sergeant-major  struck  Prokhor  across  the 
face  with  his  whip,  and  riding  straight  at  him, 
shouted: 

"Why  the  hell  don't  you  look  where  you're 
going,  you  son  of  a  bitch?  I'll  show  you.  .  .  . 
You'll  spend  the  next  three  days  on  duty!" 

The  squadron  commander  happened  to  wit- 
ness the  scene,  but  he  turned  his  back,  finger- 
ing the  sword-knot  of  his  sabre  and  yawning 
with  boredom.  His  lips  trembling,  Prokhor 
rubbed  a  streak  of  blood  from  his  swollen 
cheek. 

Pulling  his  horse  into  line,  Grigory  looked 
at  the  officers,  but  they  continued  their  conver- 
sation as  if  nothing  untoward  had  occurred. 
Five  days  later  Grigory  dropped  a  bucket  into 
the  well.  The  sergeant-major  swooped  on  him 
like  a  hawk,  and  raised  his  fist, 

"Don't  you  touch  me,"  Grigory  said  huskily, 
looking  into  the  rippling  water  below. 

"What?  Climb  down  and  get  it,  you  bastard! 
I'll  smash  your  face  in  for  this!" 

"I'll  get  it,  but  don't  you  touch  me,"  Gri- 
gory said  slowly,  without  raising  his  head. 

If  there  had  been  any  Cossacks  at  the  well, 
the  sergeant-major  would  undoubtedly  have 
beaten  Grigory,  but  they    were    attending    to 

405 


their  horses  at  the  fence  and  could  not  hear 
what  was  going  on.  The  sergeant-major  ap- 
proached Grigory,  glancing  back  at  the  Cos- 
sacks, his  bulging  eyes  insane  with  rage  as 
he  hissed: 

"Who  do  you  think  you  are?  How  dare  you 
speak  to  your  superior  in  this  way?" 

"Don't  look  for  trouble,  Semyon  Yegorov." 

"Are  you  threatening  me?  I'll.  .  .  ." 

"Look  here,"  Grigory  said,  raising  his  head 
from  the  well.  "If  you  strike  me-I'll  kill  you. 
Understand?" 

The  sergeant-major's  great  carp-like  mouth 
gaped  in  amazement  but  no  answer  came.  The 
moment  for  punishment  had  been  missed.  Gri- 
gory's  greyish  face  boded  nothing  good.  The 
sergeant-major  was  nonplussed.  He  walked 
away  from  the  well,  slipping  in  the  mud,  and 
when  some  distance  away,  turned  and  shook  his 
huge  fist. 

"I'll  report  you  to  the  squadron  commander," 
he  shouted.  "Yes,  I'll  report  you." 

However,  for  some  unknown  reason,  he  did 
not  report  Grigory.  But  for  about  a  fortnight 
afterwards  he  was  always  finding  fault  with 
him  and  appointing  him  for  sentry  duty  out  of 
turn. 

The  dreary,  monotonous  order  of  existence 
crushed  the  spirit  out  of  the  young  Cossacks. 

m 


Until  sundown  they  were  kept  continually  at 
foot  and  horse  exercises,  and  in  the  evening 
the  horses  had  to  be  groomed  and  fed.  At  ten 
o'clock,  after  roll  call  and  stationing  of  guards, 
they  were  drawn  up  for  prayers,  and  the  ser- 
geant-major, his  eyes  wandering  over  the  ranks 
before  him,  intoned  the  Lord's  prayer. 

In  the  morning  the  same  routine  began 
again,  and  the  days  were  as  like  one  another 
as  peas. 

In  the  whole  of  the  estate  there  were  only 
two  women:  the  old  wife  of  the  steward,  and 
the  steward's  pretty  young  housemaid,  a  Pol- 
ish girl  Franya.  Franya  often  ran  from  the 
house  to  the  kitchen  where  the  old,  browless 
army  cook  was  in  charge.  Winking  and  heav- 
ing exaggeratedly  loud  sighs,  the  troops  drill- 
ing on  the  parade  ground  watched  every  move- 
ment of  the  girl's  grey  skirt  as  she  ran  across 
the  yard.  Feeling  the  gaze  of  Cossacks  and  offi- 
cers fixed  upon  her,  she  bathed  in  the  streams 
of  lasciviousness  that  came  from  three  hundred 
pairs  of  eyes,  and  swung  her  hips  provoca- 
tively as  she  ran  backward  and  forward  between 
the  kitchen  and  the  house,  smiling  at  each 
troop  in  turn,  and  at  the  officers  in  particular. 
Although  all  fought  for  her  attentions,  rumour 
had  it  that  only  the  squadron  commander  had 
won  them, 

407 


One  day  in  early  spring  Grigory  was  on 
duty  in  the  stables.  He  spent  most  of  his  time 
at  one  end,  where  the  officers'  horses  were  ex- 
cited by  the  presence  of  a  mare.  He  had  just 
given  the  squadron  commander's  horse  a  taste 
of  the  whip  and  was  attending  to  his  own. 
With  a  sidelong  glance  at  its  master  the  horse 
went  on  champing  the  hay,  its  grazed  hind- 
foot  lifted  off  the  ground.  As  he  adjusted  the 
halter,  Grigory  heard  a  sound  of  struggling 
and  a  muffled  cry  coming  from  the  dark  cor- 
ner at  the  far  end  of  the  stable.  Startled  by 
the  unusual  noise,  he  hurried  past  the  stalls. 
His  eyes  were  suddenly  blinded  as  someone 
slammed  the  stable  door,  and  he  heard  a  sup- 
pressed voice  calling: 

"Hurry  up,  boys!" 

Grigory  hastened  his  steps,  and  called  out: 

"Who's  there?" 

The  next  moment  he  bumped  into  one  of  the 
sergeants,  who  was  groping  his  way  to  the 
door.  "That  you,  Melekhov?"  the  sergeant  whis- 
pered, putting  his  hand  on  Grigory's  shoulder. 

"Stop!  What's  up?" 

The  sergeant  burst  into  a  guilty  snigger  and 
seized  Grigory's  sleeve.  "We.  .  .  .  Hey,  where're 
you  going?"  Tearing  his  arm  away,  Grigory 
ran  and  threw  open  the  door.  In  the  deserted 
yard  a   draggle-tailed  hen,   unaware   that  the 

408 


cook  already  had  designs  on  her  for  the  stew- 
ard's soup  the  next  day,  was  scratching  some 
dung  in  search  of  a  place  to  lay  her  egg. 

The  light  momentarily  blinded  Grigory;  he 
shaded  his  eyes  with  his  hand  and  turned 
round,  hearing  the  noise  in  the  dark  corner  of 
the  stable  growing  louder.  He  ran  towards  the 
sound,  and  was  met  by  Zharkov,  buttoning  up 
his  trousers. 

"What  the  .  .  .  what  are  you  doing  here?" 
"Hurry  up!"  Zharkov  whispered,  breathing 
bad  breath  in  Grigory's  face.  "It's  wonder- 
ful. .  .  .  They've  dragged  the  girl  Franya  in 
there  .  .  .  laid  her  out!"  His  snigger  suddenly 
broke  off  as  Grigory  sent  him  flying  against 
the  log  wall  of  the  stable.  Grigory's  eyes  grew 
accustomed  to  the  darkness  and  there  was  fear 
in  them  as  he  ran  towards  the  noise.  In  the 
corner,  Grigory  found  a  crowd  of  Cossacks  of 
the  First  Troop.  He  silently  pushed  his  way 
through  them,  and  saw  Franya  lying  motion- 
less on  the  floor,  her  head  wrapped  in  horse- 
cloths, her  dress  torn  and  pulled  back  above 
her  breasts,  her  legs,  white  in  the  darkness, 
flung  out  shamelessly  and  horribly.  A  Cossack 
had  just  risen  from  her;  grinning  sheepishly, 
he  was  stepping  back  to  make  way  for  the 
next,  Grigory  tore  his  way  back  through  the 
crowd  and  ran  to  the  door,   shouting  for  the 

409 


sergeant-major.  But  the  other  Cossacks  ran 
after  him  and  caught  him  at  the  door.  They 
dragged  him  back,  putting  their  hands  over 
his  mouth.  He  tore  one  man's  tunic  from  hem 
to  collar  and  gave  another  a  kick  in  the  stom- 
ach, but  the  others  pinned  him  down.  As 
they  had  done  to  Franya,  they  wound  a  horse- 
cloth round  his  head  and  tied  his  hands  behind 
him,  then,  keeping  quiet  so  that  he  should  not 
recognize  their  voices,  threw  him  into  an  empty 
manger.  Choking  in  the  stinking  horse-cloth,  he 
tried  to  shout,  and  kicked  furiously  at  the  par- 
tition. He  heard  whispering  in  the  corner,  and 
the  door  creaking  as  the  Cossacks  went  in  and 
out.  He  was  set  free  some  twenty  minutes  later. 
The  sergeant-major  and  two  Cossacks  from  an- 
other troop  were  standing  at  the  door. 

"You  just  keep  your  mouth  shut!"  the  ser- 
geant-major said  to  him,  winking  hard  and 
glancing   over  his  shoulder. 

"Don't  blab  or  we'll  tear  your  ears  off," 
Dubok,  a  Cossack  from  another  troop,  said  with 
a  grin. 

The  two  Cossacks  went  in  and  lifted  up  the 
motionless  bundle  that  was  Franya  (her  legs 
were  parted  stiffly  under  her  skirt),  and  climb- 
ing on  to  a  manger,  thrust  it  through  a  hole 
left  in  the  wall  by  a  lose  plank.  The  wall  bor- 
dered on   the   orchard.    Above   each   §tall  was 

410 


a  tiny,  grimy  window.  Some  of  the  Cossacks 
clambered  on  to  the  stall  partitions  to  watch 
what  Franya  would  do,  others  hastened  out 
of  the  stables.  Grigory,  too,  was  seized  by  a 
bestial  curiosity,  and  gripping  a  cross-beam, 
he  drew  himself  up  to  one  of  the  windows  and 
looked  down.  Dozens  of  eyes  stared  through 
the  dirty  windows  at  the  girl  lying  under  the 
wall.  She  lay  on  her  back,  her  legs  crossing 
and  uncrossing  like  scissor  blades,  her  fingers 
scrabbling  in  the  snow  by  the  wall.  Grigory 
could  not  see  her  face  but  he  heard  the  sup- 
pressed breathing  of  other  Cossacks  at  the  win- 
dows, and  the  soft  and  pleasant  crunch  of  hay 
under  their  feet. 

She  lay  there  a  long  time,  and  at  last  strug- 
gled on  to  her  hands  and  knees.  Her  arms  trem- 
bled, hardly  able  to  bear  her.  Grigory  saw  that 
clearly.  Swaying,  she  scrambled  to  her  feet, 
and,  dishevelled,  unfamiliar,  hostile,  she  passed 
her  eyes  in  a  long,  slow  stare  over  the  win- 
dows. 

Then  she  staggered  away,  one  hand  clinging 
to  the  woodbine  bushes,  the  other  groping  along 
the  wall. 

Grigory  jumped  down  from  the  partition  and 
rubbed  his  throat,  feeling  that  he  was  about 
to  choke.  At  the  door  someone,  afterwards  he 

411 


could  not  even  remember  who,  said  to  him  in 
distinct  and  unequivocal  tones: 

"Breathe  a  word  .  .  .  and  by  Christ,  we'll 
kill  you!" 

On  the  parade  ground  the  troop  commander 
noticed  that  a  button  had  been  torn  from  Gri- 
gory's  greatcoat,  and  asked: 

"Who  have  you  been  wrestling  with?  What 
style  d'you  call  this?" 

Grigory  glanced  down  at  the  little  round 
hole  left  by  the  missing  button;  overwhelmed 
by  the  memory,  for  the  first  time  in  years  he 
felt  like  crying. 

Ill 

A  sultry,  sunny  July  haze  lay  over  the  steppe. 
The  ripe  unharvested  floods  of  wheat  smoked 
with  yellow  dust.  The  metal  of  the  reapers 
was  too  hot  to  touch.  It  was  painful  to  look 
up  at  the  flaming,  bluish-yellow  sky.  Where 
the  wheat  ended,  a  saffron  sweep  of  clover  be- 
gan. 

The  entire  village  had  moved  out  into  the 
steppe  to  cut  the  rye.  The  horses  choked  in 
the  heat  and  the  pungent  dust,  and  were  res- 
tive as  they  dragged  the  reapers.  Now  and  then 
a  wave  of  air  from  the  river  raised  a  fringe 
of  dust  over  the  steppe,  and  the  sun  was  en- 
veloped in  a  tingling  haze. 

412 


Since  early  morning  Pyotr,  who  was  fork- 
ing the  wheat  off  the  reaper  platform,  had 
drunk  half  a  bucketful  of  water.  Within  a  min- 
ute of  his  drinking  the  warm,  unpleasant  liq- 
uid his  throat  was  dry  again.  His  shirt  was 
wet  through,  the  sweat  streamed  from  his  face, 
there  was  a  continual  trilling  ring  in  his  ears. 
Darya,  her  head  and  face  wrapped  in  her  ker- 
chief, her  shirt  unbuttoned,  was  gathering  the 
corn  into  stooks.  Big  grey  beads  of  sweat  ran 
down  between  her  dusky  breasts.  Natalya  was 
leading  the  horses.  Her  cheeks  were  burned 
the  colour  of  beetroot,  and  the  glaring  sun 
brought  tears  to  her  eyes.  Pantelei  was  walking 
up  and  down  the  swaths  of  corn,  his  wet  shirt 
scalding  his  body.  His  beard  looked  like  a 
stream  of  melting  black  cart-grease  flowing 
over  his  chest. 

"Make  you  sweat?"  Christonya  shouted 
from  a  passing  cart. 

"Wet  through!"  Pantelei  stumped  on,  wip- 
ing his  perspiring  belly  with  the  tail  of  his 
shirt. 

"Pyotr!"  Darya  called.  "Let's  stop." 
"Wait  a  bit;  we'll  finish  this  row." 
"Let's  wait  till  it's  cooler.  I've  had  enough." 
Natalya  halted  the  horses;  her  chest  was  heav- 
ing as  though  it  were  she  who  had  been  pull- 
ing the    reaper.   Darya  went    across  to  them, 

413 


picking  her  way  carefully  over   the  cut  corn 
on  her  dark  blistered  feet. 

"Pyotr,  it's  not  far  from  the  pond  here." 
"Not  far!  Only  three  versts  or  so!" 
"What  wouldn't  I  give  for  a  dip!" 
"While  you're  getting  there  and  back  .  .  ." 
Natalya  began  with  a  sigh. 

"Why  the  devil  should  we  walk!  We'll  un- 
harness the  horses  and  ride." 

Pyotr  glanced  uneasily  at  his  father  tying  up 
a  sheaf,  and  shrugged. 

"All  right,  unharness  the  horses." 
Darya  unfastened  the  traces  and  jumped 
agilely  on  to  the  mare's  back.  Natalya,  smiling 
with  cracked  lips,  led  her  horse  to  the  reaper 
and  tried  to  mount  from  the  driver's  seat.  Pyotr 
went  to  her  aid  and  gave  her  a  leg  up  on  to 
the  horse.  They  rode  off.  Darya,  sitting  her 
horse  Cossack  fashion,  trotted  in  front,  her 
skirt  tucked  up  above  her  bare  knees,  her  ker- 
chief pushed  on  to  the  back  of  the  head. 

"Mind  you  don't  get  sore!"  Pyotr  could  not 
help  shouting  after  her. 

"You  needn't  worry!"  Darya  shouted  back 
carelessly. 

As  they  crossed  the  field  track  Pyotr  glanced 
to  his  left  and  noticed  a  tiny  cloud  of  dust  mov- 
ing swiftly  along  the  distant  highroad  from  the 
village. 

414 


"Someone  riding  there!"  he  remarked  to  Na- 
talya,  screwing  up  his  eyes. 

"And  fast,  too!  Look  at  the  dust!"  Natalya 
replied  in  surprise. 

"Who  on  earth  can  it  be!  Darya!"  Pyotr  called 
to  his  wife.  "Rein  in  for  a  minute,  and  let's 
watch  that  rider!" 

The  cloud  of  dust  dropped  down  into  a  hol- 
low and  disappeared,  then  came  up  again  on 
the  other  side.  Now  the  figure  of  the  rider 
could  be  seen  through  the  dust.  Pyotr  sat  gaz- 
ing with  his  dirty  palm  set  against  the  edge 
of  his  straw  hat. 

"No  horse  can  stand  that  pace  for  long.  He'll 
kill  it!"  He  frowned  and  took  his  hand  away; 
an  agitated  expression  passed  across  his 
face. 

Now  the  horseman  could  be  seen  quite  plain- 
ly. He  was  riding  his  horse  at  a  furious  gallop, 
his  left  hand  holding  on  his  cap,  a  dusty  red 
flag  fluttering  in  his  right.  He  rode  along  the 
track  so  close  to  them  that  Pyotr  heard  his 
horse's  panting  breath.  As  he  passed,  the  man 
shouted: 

"Alarm!" 

A  flake  of  yellow  soapy  foam  flew  from  his 
horse  and  fell  into  a  hoof-print.  Pyotr  followed 
the  rider  with  his  eyes.  The  heavy  snort  of  the 
horse,  and,  as  he  stared  after  the  retreating  fig- 

415 


ure,  the  sight  of  the  horse's  croup,  wet  and 
glittering  like  steel,  remained  impressed  in  his 
memory. 

Still  not  realizing  the  nature  of  the  misfor- 
tune that  had  come  upon  them,  Pyotr  gazed 
stupidly  at  the  foam  flying  in  the  dust,  then 
glanced  around  the  rolling  steppe.  From  all 
sides  the  Cossacks  were  running  over  the  yel- 
low strips  of  stubble  towards  the  village;  across 
the  steppe,  as  far  as  the  distant  upland, 
little  clouds  of  dust  indicating  horsemen  were 
to  be  seen,  A  long  trail  of  dust  moved  along 
the  road  to  the  village.  The  Cossacks  who  were 
on  the  active  service  list  abandoned  their  work, 
took  their  horses  out  of  the  shafts  and  galloped 
off  to  the  village.  Pyotr  saw  Christonya  unhar- 
ness his  Guards  charger  from  a  wagon  and  ride 
off  at  a  wild  pace,  glancing  back  over  his 
shoulder. 

"What's  it  all  about?"  Natalya  half  groaned, 
with  a  frightened  look  at  Pyotr.  Her  gaze,  the 
gaze  of  a  trapped  hare,  startled  him  to  action. 
He  galloped  back  to  the  reaper,  jumped  off  his 
horse  before  it  had  halted,  hustled  into  the 
trousers  he  had  flung  off  while  working,  and 
waving  his  hand  to  his  father,  tore  off  to  add 
one  more  cloud  of  dust  to  those  which  had 
already  blossomed  over  the  sultry  steppe. 


416 


IV 


He  found  a  dense  grey  crowd  assembled  on 
the  square.  Many  were  already  wearing  their 
army  uniform  and  equipment.  The  blue  mili- 
tary caps  of  the  men  belonging  to  the  Ataman's 
Regiment  rose  a  head  higher  than  the  rest,  like 
Dutch  ganders  among  the  small  fry  of  the  farm- 
yard. 

The  village  tavern  was  closed.  The  military 
police  officer  had  a  gloomy  and  care-worn  look. 
The  women,  attired  in  their  holiday  clothes, 
lined  the  fences  along  the  streets.  One  word 
was  on  everybody's  lips:  "Mobilization."  In- 
toxicated, excited  faces.  The  general  anxiety  had 
been  communicated  to  the  horses,  and  they 
were  kicking  and  plunging  and  snorting  angri- 
ly. The  square  was  strewn  with  empty  bottles 
and  wrappers  from  cheap  sweets.  A  cloud  of 
dust  hung  low  in  the  air. 

Pyotr  led  his  saddled  horse  by  the  rem. 
Close  to  the  church  fence  a  big  swarthy  Cos- 
sack of  the  Ataman's  Regiment  stood  button- 
ing up  his  blue  sharovari,  with  his  mouth  gap- 
ing in  a  white-toothed  smile,  while  a  stocky 
little  woman,  his  wife  or  sweetheart,  stormed 
at  him. 

"I'll  give  it  you  for  going  with  that  hussy!" 
the  little  woman  promised. 

27—1933  417 


She  was  drunk,  her  dishevelled  hair  was  scat- 
tered with  the  husks  of  sunflower  seed,  her 
flowered  kerchief  hung  loose.  The  guardsman 
tightened  his  belt  and,  grinning  widely,  dropped 
to  his  haunches,  leaving  enough  room  for 
a  year-old  calf  to  pass  under  the  voluminous 
folds  of  his  sharouari. 

"Keep  off,  Mashka." 

"You  great  shameless  brute!  Woman-chaser!" 

"What  about  it?" 

"I'll  give  it  you!" 

Near  him  a  red-bearded  sergeant-major  was 
arguing  with  an  artilleryman. 

"Nothing  will  come  of  it,  never  fear!"  he 
was  assuring  him.  "We'll  be  mobilized  for  a 
few  days,  and  then  back  home  again." 

"But  suppose  there's  a  war?" 

"Pah,  my  friend!  What  country  could  stand 
up  to  us?" 

In  a  neighbouring  group  a  handsome,  elder- 
ly Cossack  was  arguing  heatedly. 

"It's  nothing  to  do  with  us.  Let  them  do 
their  own  fighting,  we  haven't  got  our  corn  in 
yet." 

"It's  a  shame!  Here  we  are  standing  here, 
and  on  a  day  like  this  we  could  harvest  enough 
for  a  whole  year." 

"The  cattle  will  get  among  the  stooks!" 

"And  we'd  just  begun  to  reap  the  barley!" 

418 


"They  say  the  Austrian  tsar's  been  mur- 
dered." 

"No,  his  heir." 

"But  the  ataman  says  they've  called  us  up 
just  in  case." 

"We're  in  for  it  now,  lads." 

"Another  twelve  months  and  I'd  have  been 
out  of  the  third  line  of  reserves,"  an  elderly 
Cossack  said  regretfully. 

"What  do  they  want  you  for.  Grandad?" 

"Don't  you  worry,  as  soon  as  they  start  kill- 
ing the  men  off,  they'll  be  taking  the  old  ones, 
too." 

"The  tavern's  closed!" 

"What  about  going  to  Marfutka's?  She'd  sell 
us  a  barrel!" 

The  inspection  started.  Three  Cossacks  led  a 
fourth,  blood-stained  and  completely  drunk, 
into  the  village  administration.  He  threw  him- 
self back,  tore  his  shirt  open,  and  rolling  his 
eyes,  shouted: 

"I'll  show  the  muzhiks!  I'll  have  their  blood! 
They'll  know  the  Don  Cossack!" 

The  circle  around  him  laughed  approvingly. 

"That's  right,  give  it  to  them!" 

"What  have  they  grabbed  him  for?" 

"He  went  for  some  muzhik!" 

"Well,  they  deserve  it." 

"We'll  give  them  some  more!" 

27*  419 


"I  took  a  hand  when  they  put  them  down 
in  1905.  That  was  a  sight  worth  seeing!" 

"There's  going  to  be  war.  They'll  be  send- 
ing us  again  to  put  them  down." 

"Enough  of  that.  Let  them  hire  people  for 
that,  or  let  the  police  do  it.  It's  a  shame  for 
us  to." 

Mokhov's  shop  was  surging  with  people.  In 
the  middle  Ivan  Tomilin  was  arguing  drunken- 
ly  with  the  owners.  Mokhov  was  trying  to  pac- 
ify him.  Atyopin,  his  partner,  had  retired  to 
the  doorway.  "What's  all  this?"  he  expostulat- 
ed. "My  word,  this  is  an  outrage!  Boy,  run  for 
the  ataman!" 

Rubbing  his  sweaty  hands  on  his  trousers, 
Tomilin  pressed  against  the  frowning  merchant 
and  sneered: 

"You've  squeezed  us  and  squeezed  us  with 
your  interest,  you  swine,  and  now  you've  got 
the  wind  up.  I'll  smash  your  face  in!  Stealing 
our  Cossack  rights,  you  fat  slug!" 

The  village  ataman  was  busily  pouring  out 
soothing  words  for  the  benefit  of  the  Cossacks 
sun-ounding  him:  "War?  No,  there  won't  be 
any  war.  His  Honour  the  chief  of  the  military 
police  said  the  mobilization  was  only  a  drill. 
There's  no  need  for  alarm." 

"Good!  Back  to  the  fields  as  soon  as  we're 
home!" 

420 


"What  are  the  authorities  thinking  about?  I 
have  over  a  hundred  dessiatines  of  harvesting 
to  do." 

"Timoshka!  Tell  our  folk  we'll  be  home  again 
tomorrow." 

"Looks  as  if  they've  put  a  notice  up.  Let's 
go  and  have  a  look." 

Until  late  at  night  the  square  was  alive  and 
noisy  with  excited  crowds. 

Some  four  days  later  the  red  trucks  of  the 
troop  trains  were  carrying  the  Cossack  regi- 
ments and  batteries  towards  the  Russo-Aus- 
trian  frontier. 

"War.  .  .  ." 

From  the  stalls  came  the  snorting  of  horses 
and  the  damp  stench  of  dung. 

The  same  kind  of  talk  in  the  wagons,  the 
songs  mostly  of  this  kind: 

The  Don's  awake  and  stirring. 
The  quiet  and  Christian  Don, 
In  obedience  to  the  call. 
The  monarch's  call,  it  marches  on. 

At  the  stations  the  Cossacks  were  eyed  with 
inquisitive,  benevolent  looks.  People  stared 
curiously  at  the  stripes  on  the  Cossacks'  trou- 
sers, at  their  faces,  still  dark  from  their  recent 
labour  in  the  fields. 

42t 


"War. . . ." 

Newspapers  screamed  out  the  news.  At  the 
stations  the  women  waved  their  handkerchiefs, 
smiled,  threw  cigarettes  and  sweets.  Only  once, 
just  before  the  train  reached  Voronezh,  did  an 
old  railway  worker,  half  drunk,  thrust  his  head 
into  the  truck  where  Pyotr  Melekhov  was  crowd- 
ed with  twenty-nine  other  Cossacks,  and  ask: 

"You  going?" 

"Yes.  Get  in  and  come  with  us.  Grandad," 
one  of  the  Cossacks  replied. 

"My  boy. ,  .  .  Bullocks  for  slaughter!"  the 
old  man  responded  and  shook  his  head  re- 
proachfully. 

V 

During  the  fourth  week  of  June,  1914,  the 
divisional  staff  transferred  Grigory  Melekhov's 
regiment  to  the  town  of  Rovno,  to  take  part 
in  manoeuvres.  Two  infantry  divisions  were 
located  in  the  neighbourhood  as  well  as  cav- 
alry units.  The  Fourth  Squadron  was  sta- 
tioned in  the  village  of  Vladislavka.  A  fortnight 
later,  tired  out  with  continual  manoeuvring, 
Grigory  and  the  other  Cossacks  of  the  Fourth 
Squadron  were  lying  in  their  tents,  when  the 
squadron  commander.  Junior  Captain  Polkov- 
nikov,  galloped  furiously  back  from  the  regi- 
ment staff. 

422 


"We'll  be  on  the  move  again  I  suppose,"  Pro- 
khor  Zykov  suggested  tentatively,  and  fell  si- 
lent waiting  for  the  sound  of  the  bugle. 

The  troop  sergeant  thrust  the  needle  with 
which  he  had  been  mending  his  trousers  into 
the   lining  of  his  cap,   and  remarked: 

"Looks  like  it;  they  won't  let  us  rest  for  a 
moment." 

"Sergeant-major  said  the  brigade  command- 
er will  be  visiting  us." 

A  minute  or  two  later  the  bugler  sounded  the 
alarm.  The  Cossacks  jumped  to  their  feet. 

"What  have  I  done  with  my  pouch?"  Pro- 
khor  exclaimed,  searching  frantically. 

"Boot  and  saddle!" 

"Your  pouch  can  go  to  hell,"  Grigory  shout- 
ed as  he  ran  out. 

The  sergeant-major  ran  into  the  yard  and, 
holding  the  hilt  of  his  sword,  made  for  the 
hitching  posts.  They  had  their  horses  saddled 
well  within  regulation  time.  As  Grigory  was 
tearing  up  the  tent-pegs  the  sergeant  managed 
to  mutter  to  him: 

"It's  war  this  time,  my  boy!" 

"You're  fooling!" 

"God's  truth!  The  sergeant-major  told  me." 

The  squadron  formed  up  in  the  street,  the 
commander  at  its  head.  "In  troop  columns!" 
his  command  flew  over  the  ranks. 

423 


Hoofs  clattered  as  the  horses  trotted  out  of 
the  village  on  to  the  highway.  From  a  neigh- 
bouring village  the  First  and  Fifth  squadrons 
could  be  seen  riding  towards  the  station. 

A  day  later  the  regiment  was  detrained  at 
a  station  some  thirty-five  versts  from  the  Aus- 
trian frontier.  Dawn  was  breaking  behind  the 
station  birch-trees.  The  morning  promised  to 
be  fine.  The  engine  fussed  and  rumbled  over 
the  tracks.  The  lines  glittered  under  a  varnish 
of  dew.  The  Cossacks  of  the  Fourth  Squadron 
led  their  horses  by  the  bridles  out  of  the  wag- 
ons and  over  the  level-crossing,  mounted,  and 
moved  off  in  column  formation.  Their  voices 
sounded  eerily  in  the  crumbling,  lilac  darkness. 
Faces  and  the  contours  of  horses  emerged  un- 
certainly out  of  the  gloom. 

"What  squadron  is  that?" 

"And  who  are  you?  Where' ve  you  come 
from?" 

"I'll  show  you  who  I  am!  How  dare  you 
speak  to  an  officer  in  that  way?" 

"Sorry,  Your  Honour,  didn't  recognize  you." 

"Ride  on!  Ride  on!" 

"What  are  you  dawdling  about  for?  Get  mov- 
ing." 

"Where's  your  Third  Troop,  sergeant-ma- 
jor?" 

"Squadron,  bring  up  the  rear!" 

</2J 


Muttered  whispers  in  the  column: 

"Bring  up  the  rear,  blast  him,  when  we 
haven't  slept  for  two  nights." 

"Give  me  a  puff,  Syomka,  haven't  had  a 
smoke  since  yesterday." 

"Hold  your  horse.  .  .  ." 

"He's  bitten  through  his  saddle-strap,  the 
devil." 

"Mine's  lost  a  hoof  in  front." 

A  little  farther  on  the  Fourth  Squadron  was 
held  up  for  a  while  by  the  first,  which  had 
detrained  before  it.  Against  the  bluish  grey  of 
the  sky  the  silhouettes  of  the  horsemen  ahead 
stood  out  clearly,  as  though  drawn  with  Indian 
ink.  Their  lances  swung  like  bare  sunflower 
stalks.  Occasionally  a  stirrup  jingled  or  a  saddle 
creaked. 

Prokhor  Zykov  was  riding  at  Grigory's  side. 
Prokhor  stared  into  his  face  and  whispered: 

"Melekhov,  you're  not  afraid,  are  you?" 

"What  is  there  to  be  afraid  of?" 

"We  may  be  in    action  today." 

"Well,  what  of  it?" 

"But  I'm  afraid,"  Prokhor  admitted,  his  fin- 
gers playing  nervously  with  the  dewy  reins.  "I 
didn't  sleep  a  wink  all  night." 

Once  more  the  squadron  advanced;  the 
horses  moved  at  a  measured  pace,  the  lances 
swayed    and    flowed    rhythmically.     Dropping 

425 


the  reins,  Grigory  dozed.  And  it  seemed  to 
him  that  it  was  not  the  horse  that  put  its  legs 
forward  springily,  rocking  him  in  the  saddle, 
but  he  himself  who  was  walking  along  a  warm, 
dark  road,  and  walking  with  unusual  ease, 
with  irresistible  joy.  Prokhor  chattered  away 
at  his  side,  but  his  voice  mingled  with  the 
creak  of  the  saddle  and  the  clatter  of  hoofs, 
and  did  not  disturb  his  thoughtless  doze. 

The  squadron  turned  into  a  by-road.  The 
silence  rang  in  their  ears.  Ripe  oats  hung  over 
the  wayside,  their  tops  smoking  with  dew.  The 
horses  tried  to  reach  the  low  ears  and  dragged 
the  reins  out  of  their  riders'  hands.  The  gra- 
cious daylight  crept  under  Grigory's  puffy  eye- 
lids. He  raised  his  head  and  heard  Prokhor' s 
monotonous  voice,  like  the  creak  of  a  cart- 
wheel. 

He  was  abruptly  aroused  by  a  heavy,  rum- 
bling roar    that  billowed  across  the  oatfields. 

"Gun-fire!"  Prokhor  almost  shouted,  and 
fright  clouded  his  calf-like  eyes.  Grigory  lifted 
his  head.  In  front  of  him  the  troop-sergeant's 
grey  greatcoat  rose  and  fell  in  time  with  the 
horse's  back;  on  each  side  stretched  fields  of 
unreaped  corn;  a  skylark  danced  in  the  sky  at 
the  height  of  a  telegraph  pole.  The  entire  squad- 
ron was  aroused,  the  sound  of  the  firing  ran 
through  it  like  an  electric  current.  Lashed  into 

426 


activity.  Junior  Captain  Polkovnikov  put  the 
squadron  into  a  fast  trot.  Beyond  a  cross-road, 
where  a  deserted  tavern  stood,  they  began  to 
meet  with  carts  of  refugees.  A  squadron  of 
smart-looking  dragoons  went  by.  Their  captain, 
riding  a  sorrel  thoroughbred,  stared  at  the  Cos- 
sacks ironically  and  spurred  on  his  horse.  They 
came  upon  a  howitzer  battery  stranded  in  a 
muddy  and  swampy  hollow.  The  riders  were 
lashing  at  their  horses,  while  the  gunners 
struggled  with  the  carriage  wheels.  A  great, 
pock-marked  artilleryman  passed  carrying  an 
armful  of  boards  probably  torn  from  the  fence 
of  the  tavern. 

A  little  farther  on  they  overtook  an  infantry 
regiment.  The  soldiers  were  marching  fast,  their 
greatcoats  rolled  on  their  backs.  The  sun  glit- 
tered on  their  polished  mess-tins  and  streamed 
from  their  bayonets.  A  lively  little  corporal  in 
the  last  company  threw  a  lump  of  mud  at  Gri- 
gory: 

"Here,  catch!  Chuck  it  at  the  Austrians!" 
"Don't    play    about,    grasshopper!"   Grigory 
replied,  and  cut  the  lump  of  mud  in  its  flight 
with  his  whip. 

"Say  hullo  to  'em  from  us,  Cossacks!" 
"You'll  have  a  chance  yourselves." 
At  the  head  of  the  column  someone  struck 
up  a  bawdy  song;  a  soldier  with  fat  womanish 

427 


buttocks  marched  beside  the  column  slapping 
his  stumpy  calves.  The  officers  laughed.  The 
keen  sense  of  approaching  danger  had  brought 
them  closer  to  the  men  and  made  them  more 
tolerant. 

From  now  on  the  column  was  continually 
passing  foot  regiments  crawling  like  caterpil- 
lars, batteries,  baggage-wagons.  Red  Cross  wag- 
ons. The  deathly  breath  of  fighting  close  at 
hand  was  in  the  air. 

A  little  later,  as  it  was  entering  a  village,  the 
Fourth  Squadron  was  overtaken  by  the  com- 
mander of  the  regiment,  Lieutenant-Colonel  Ka- 
ledin,  accompanied  by  his  second  in  command. 
As  they  passed,  Grigory  heard  the  latter  say 
agitatedly  toKaledin:  "This  village  isn't  marked 
on  the  map,  Vasily  Maximovich!  We  may 
find  ourselves  in  an  awkward  position." 
Grigory  did  not  catch  the  colonel's  reply. 
The  adjutant  galloped  past  overtaking  them. 
His  horse  was  stepping  heavily  on  its  left  hind- 
foot.  Grigory  mechanically  noted  its  fine  points. 
The  regiment  was  continually  changing  its 
pace,  and  the  horses  began  to  sweat.  The  cot- 
tages of  a  small  village  lying  under  a  gentle 
slope  appeared  in  the  distance.  On  the  other 
side  of  the  village  was  a  wood,  its  green  tree- 
tops  piercing  the  azure  dome  of  the  sky.  From 
beyond  the  wood  splashes  of  gunfire  mingled 

428 


with  the  frequent  rattle  of  rifle-shots.  The  horses 
pricked  up  their  ears.  The  smoke  of  burst- 
ing shrapnel  hovered  in  the  sky  a  long  way  off  ; 
the  rifle-fire  moved  slowly  to  the  right  of  the 
company,  now  dying  away,  now  growing 
louder. 

Grigory  listened  tensely  to  every  sound,  his 
nerves  tautened  into  little  bundles  of  sensation. 
Prokhor  Zykov  fidgeted  in  his  saddle,  talking 
incessantly: 

"Grigory,  those  shots  sound  just  like  boys 
rattling  sticks  along  railings,  don't  they?" 

"Shut  up,  magpie!" 

The  squadron  entered  the  village.  Soldiers 
were  milling  about  in  the  yards.  The  inhabit- 
ants of  the  cottages,  alarm  and  confusion  writ- 
ten on  their  faces,  were  packing  their  belongings 
to  flee.  As  Grigory  passed  he  noticed  that  sol- 
diers were  firing  the  roof  of  a  shed,  but  its 
owner,  a  tall,  grey-haired  Byelorussian,  crushed 
by  his  sudden  misfortune,  went  past  them 
without  paying  the  slightest  attention.  Grigory 
saw  the  man's  family  loading  a  cart  with  red- 
covered  pillows  and  ramshackle  furniture,  and 
the  man  himself  was  carefully  carrying  a  bro- 
ken wheel-rim,  which  was  of  no  value  to  any- 
body, and  had  probably  lain  in  the  yard  for 
years.  Grigory  was  amazed  at  the  stupidity 
of  the  women,  who  were  piling  the  carts  with 

429 


flower  pots  and  icons  and  were  leaving  neces- 
sary and  valuable  articles  behind  in  their  houses. 
Down  the  street  the  feathers  from  a  feath- 
er-bed blew  like  a  miniature  snow-storm  and 
there  was  a  pungent  smell  of  burning  soot  and 
musty  cellars  in  the  air. 

At  the  end  of  the  village  they  met  a  Jew  run- 
ning towards  them.  The  narrow  slit  of  his 
mouth  was  torn  apart  in  a  cry! 

"Mister  Cossack,  Mister  Cossack!  Oh,  my 
God!" 

A  short,  round-headed  Cossack  rode  ahead 
of  him  at  a  trot,  waving  his  whip  and  ignoring 
him  completely, 

"Stop!"  a  junior  captain  from  the  Second 
Squadron  shouted  to  the  Cossack. 

The  Cossack  bent  over  the  pommel  of  his 
saddle  and  galloped  into  a  side  street. 

"Stop,  you    scoundrel.  What    regiment    are 


you 


2" 


The  Cossack's  round  head  pressed  closer  to 
the  horse's  neck.  He  galloped  madly  towards 
a  tall  fence,  reared  his  horse,  and  took  the 
jump  neatly. 

"The  Ninth  Regiment  is  stationed  here.  Your 
Honour,  That's  where  he's  from,"  said  the  ser- 
geant. 

"Let  him  go  to  the  devil,"  the  junior  cap- 
tain frowned,  and  turned  to  the  Jew  who  was 

430 


clutching    at   his    stirrup.    "What   did   he   take 
from  you?" 

"Mister  Officer  . .  .  my  watch.  Mister  Offi- 
cer." The  Jew  blinked,  turning  his  handsome 
face  towards  the  approaching  officers. 

The  junior  captain,  freeing  the  stirrup  with 
his  foot,  started  forward. 

"The  Germans  would  have  taken  it  anyhow, 
when  they  came,"  he  said  smiling  into  his 
moustache. 

The  Jew  stood  confusedly  in  the  middle  of 
the  road.  His  face  twitched. 

"Make  way,  master  Sheeny,"  shouted  the 
squadron  commander  sternly,  raising  his  whip. 

The  Fourth  Squadron  rode  by,  hoofs  clatter- 
ing, saddles  creaking.  The  Cossacks  jeered  at 
the  disconcerted  Jew,  and  spoke  among  them- 
selves: 

"The  likes  of  us  can't  help  stealing." 

"Everything  sticks  to  a  Cossack's  hand." 

"Let  them  be  more  careful  about  their 
things!" 

"A  nimble  fellow,  that!" 

"The  way  he  took  that  fence,  like  a  borzoi." 

Sergeant-Major  Kargin  dropped  behind  the 
squadron,  and  to  the  accompaniment  of  laugh- 
ter from  the  Cossacks  lowered  his  lance  and 
shouted: 

"Run,  Sheeny,  before  I.  ,  . ." 

431 


The  Jew  gasped  and  ran.  The  sergeant-major 
overtook  him  and  struck  him  with  his  whip. 
Grigory  saw  the  Jew  stumble  and,  covering 
his  face  with  his  palms,  turn  to  the  sergeant- 
major.  Through  his  thin  fingers  the  blood  was 
trickling. 

"What  for?"  he  sobbed. 

The  sergeant-major,  his  sharp  button-like 
eyes  smiling  greasily  as  he  rode  away,  shouted: 

"Don't  go  barefoot,  you  fool!" 

Beyond  the  village  a  group  of  engineers  was 
completing  a  broad  trestle  bridge  across  a  hol- 
low overgrown  with  sedge  and  yellow  water- 
lilies.  Close  by  a  motor  car  stood  rattling  and 
humming  with  a  chauffeur  fussing  round  it. 
A  stout  grey-haired  general  with  a  Spanish 
beard  and  baggy  cheeks  was  half-sitting,  half- 
lying  on  the  back  seat.  Lieutenant-Colonel  Ka- 
ledin  and  the  commander  of  the  engineers'  bat- 
talion stood  at  attention  by  the  car.  The  gener- 
al, clutching  the  strap  of  his  map  case, 
bawled  furiously  at  the  engineer: 

"You  were  ordered  to  finish  this  work  yester- 
day. Silence!  You  should  have  arranged  the 
supply  of  materials  beforehand.  Silence!"  he 
roared  again,  although  the  officer  had  made  no 
attempt  to  open  his  trembling  lips.  "How  do 
you  expect  me  to  cross  over?  Answer  me.  Cap- 
tain, how  am  I  to  cross?" 

432 


A  young  black-moustached  general  also  sit- 
ting in  the  car  smoked  a  cigar  and  smiled.  The 
engineer  captain  bent  forward  and  pointed  to 
one  side  of  the  bridge. 

At  the  bridge  the  squadron  rode  down  into 
the  hollow.  The  horses  sank  into  the  brownish- 
black  mud  up  to  their  knees,  and  feathery  white 
shavings  scattered  down  on  them  from  the 
bridge. 

The  squadron  crossed  the  Austrian  frontier 
at  noon.  The  horses  leaped  the  broken  black- 
and-white  pole  of  the  frontier  post.  From  the 
right  came  the  rumble  of  gunfire.  In  the  dis- 
tance the  red-tiled  roofs  of  a  farm  showed  up 
in  the  perpendicular  lays  of  the  sun.  A  bitter- 
tasting  cloud  of  dust  settled  thickly  on  every- 
thing. The  regimental  commander  issued  or- 
ders for  advance  patrols  to  be  detached  and 
sent  ahead.  The  Third  Troop  under  Lieutenant 
Semyonov  was  sent  out  from  the  Fourth  Squad- 
ron. The  regiment,  split  up  into  squadrons, 
was  left  behind  in  a  grey  haze.  A  detachment 
of  some  twenty  Cossacks  rode  past  the  farm 
along  the  rutted  road. 

The  lieutenant  led  the  reconnaissance  patrol 
about  three  versts,  then  halted  to  study  his 
map.  The  Cossacks  gathered  in  a  group  to 
smoke.  Grigory  dismounted  to  ease  his  saddle- 
girth,  but  the  sergeant-major  shouted: 

28—1933  433 


"What  do  you  think  you're  doing?  Get  back 
on  your  horse!" 

The  lieutenant  lit  a  cigarette,  and  carefully 
wiped  his  binoculars.  A  valley  lay  before  them 
in  the  midday  heat.  To  the  right  rose  the  jagged 
outline  of  a  wood  pierced  by  a  pointed  spear 
of  railway  tracks.  About  a  verst  and  a  half 
away  was  a  little  village,  beyond  it  the  gouged 
clay  banks  of  a  stream  and  the  cool  glassy 
surface  of  the  water.  The  officer  stared  intently 
through  his  binoculars,  studying  the  deathly 
stillness  of  the  village  streets,  but  they  were  as 
deserted  as  a  graveyard.  Only  the  blue  ribbon 
of  water  beckoned  challengingly. 

"That  must  be  Korolyovka!"  the  officer  in- 
dicated the  village  with  his  eyes. 

The  sergeant-major  took  his  horse  nearer  the 
lieutenant;  he  made  no  reply,  but  the  expres- 
sion of  his  face  said  eloquently:  "You  know 
better  than  I!  I'm  concerned  only  with  minor 
questions." 

"We'll  go  there,"  the  officer  said  irresolutely, 
putting  away  his  binoculars  and  frowning  as 
though  he  had  a  toothache. 

"We  may  run  into  them.  Your  Honour?" 

"We'll  be  careful." 

Prokhor  Zykov  kept  close  to  Grigory.  They 
rode  cautiously  down  into  the  deserted  street. 
Every  window  suggested    an    ambush,    every 

434 


open  cellar  door  evoked  a  feeling  of  loneliness 
and  sent  a  sickening  shudder  down  the  back. 
All  eyes  were  drawn  as  though  by  magnets  to 
the  fences  and  ditches.  They  rode  in  like  beasts 
of  prey,  like  wolves  approaching  human  habi- 
tations in  the  blue  winter  night-but  the  streets 
were  empty.  The  silence  was  stupefying.  From 
the  open  window  of  one  house  came  the  inno- 
cent sound  of  a  clock  striking.  The  chimes 
rang  out  like  pistol  shots,  and  Grigory  saw  the 
officer  tremble  and  his  hand  flash  to  his  re- 
volver. 

There  was  not  a  soul  in  the  village.  The  pa- 
trol forded  the  river.  The  water  reached  the 
horses'  bellies,  they  entered  willingly  and  tried 
to  drink,  but  their  riders  pulled  at  the  reins 
and  urged  them  on.  Grigory  stared  thirstily 
down  at  the  turbid  water,  close  yet  inaccessi- 
ble; it  drew  him  almost  irresistibly.  Had 
it  been  possible  he  would  have  jumped  out 
of  his  saddle  and  lain  without  undressing 
with  the  stream  murmuring  over  him  until  his 
sweating  chest  and  back  were  shivering  with 
cold. 

From  the  rise  beyond  the  village  they  saw 
a  distant  town:  square  blocks  of  houses,  brick 
buildings,  gardens,  and  church  spires.  The  offi- 
cer rode  to  the  top  of  the  hill  and  put  his 
binoculars  to  his  eyes. 

28*  435 


"There  they  are,"  he  shouted,  the  fingers  of 
his  left  hand  playing  nervously. 

The  sergeant-major  rode  to  the  sun-baked 
crest  followed  by  the  other  Cossacks  in  single 
file,  and  stared.  They  saw  tiny  figures  scurry- 
ing about  the  town.  Wagons  dammed  up  the 
side  streets;  horsemen  were  galloping  to  and 
fro.  With  eyes  screwed  up,  gazing  from  under 
his  palm,  Grigory  was  able  to  distinguish  even 
the  grey,  unfamiliar  colour  of  the  uniforms. 
Before  the  town  stretched  the  brown  lines  of 
freshly-dug  trenches,  with  men  swarming  about 
them. 

"What  a  lot  of  them!"  Prokhor  said  with  a 
gasp. 

The  others,  all  gripped  by  the  same  feeling, 
were  silent.  Grigory  listened  to  the  quickening 
throb  of  his  heart  and  realized  that  the  feeling 
he  was  experiencing  at  the  sight  of  these  for- 
eigners was  something  quite  different  from  what 
he  had  felt  in  the  face  of  "the  enemy"  on  ma- 
noeuvres. 

The  sergeant-major  drove  the  Cossacks  hur- 
riedly back  down  the  rise.  The  lieutenant  made 
some  pencil  notes  in  his  field   notebook,   and 
then  beckoned  to  Grigory: 
"Melekhov!" 
"Sir!" 


436 


Grigory  dismounted  and  went  to  the  officer, 
his  legs  feeling  like  stone  after  the  long  ride. 
The  officer  handed  him  a  folded  paper. 

"You've  got  the  best  horse.  Deliver  this  to 
the  regimental  commander.  At  a  gallop!" 

Grigory  put  the  paper  in  his  breast-pocket 
and  went  back  to  his  horse,  slipping  his  chin- 
strap  under  his  chin  as  he  went.  The  officer 
watched  him  until  he  had  mounted,  then 
glanced  at  his  wrist-watch. 

The  regiment  had  nearly  reached  the  village 
of  Korolyovka  when  Grigory  rode  up  with  the 
report.  After  reading  it  the  colonel  gave  an 
order  to  his  adjutant,  who  galloped  off  to  the 
First  Squadron. 

The  Fourth  Squadron  streamed  through  Ko- 
rolyovka and,  as  quickly  as  though  on  the  pa- 
rade ground,  spread  out  in  formation  over  the 
fields  beyond.  Lieutenant  Semyonov  rode  up 
with  his  men.  The  horses  tossed  their  heads 
to  shake  off  the  horse-flies,  and  there  was  a 
continual  jingle  of  bridles.  The  noise  of  the 
First  Squadron  passing  through  the  village 
sounded  heavily  in  the  midday  silence. 

Junior  Captain  Polkovnikov  rode  on  his  pranc- 
ing horse  to  the  front  of  the  ranks.  Gathering 
the  reins  tightly  in  one  hand,  he  dropped  the 
other  to  his  sword-knot.  Grigory  held  his 
breath   and   awaited    the   word    of    command. 

437 


There  was  a  rumble  of  hoofs  on  the  left  flank 
as  the  First  Squadron  got  into  position. 

The  officer  wrenched  his  sabre  from  its 
sheath;  the  blade  gleamed  like  blue  light. 

"Squadron!"  He  swung  his  sabre  to  the  right, 
then  to  the  left,  and  finally  lowered  it  in  front 
of  him,  holding  it  poised  above  the  horse's 
ears.  Grigory  tried  to  think  what  the  next  order 
would  be.  "Lances  at  the  ready!  Sabres  out! 
Into  the  attack  .  .  .  gallop!"  The  officer 
snapped,  and  gave  his  horse  the  rein. 

The  earth  groaned  dully  under  the  crushing 
impact  of  a  thousand  hoofs.  Grigory,  who  was 
in  the  front  ranks,  had  hardly  brought  his  lance 
to  the  ready  when  his  horse,  carried  away  by 
a  lashing  flood  of  other  horses,  broke  into  a 
gallop  and  went  off  at  full  speed.  Ahead  of 
him  the  figure  of  the  commanding  officer  bobbed 
up  and  down  against  the  grey  background 
of  the  field.  A  black  wedge  of  ploughed  land 
sped  irresistibly  towards  him.  The  First  Squad- 
ron raised  a  surging  quivering  shout,  the 
Fourth  Squadron  took  it  up.  The  ground  streaked 
past  close  under  the  horses'  straining  bel- 
lies. Through  the  roaring  whistle  in  his  ears 
Grigory  caught  the  sound  of  distant  firing.  The 
first  bullet  whined  high  above  them,  furrowing 
the  glassy  vault  of  the  sky.  Grigory  pressed 
the  hot  shaft  of  his  lance  against  his  side  until 

433 


it  hurt  him  and  his  palm  sweated.  The  whistle 
of  flying  bullets  made  him  duck  his  head  down 
to  the  wet  neck  of  his  horse,  and  the  pungent 
scent  of  the  animal's  sweat  penetrated  his  nos- 
trils. As  though  through  the  misty  glass  of 
binoculars  he  saw  the  brown  ridges  of  trenches, 
and  men  in  grey  running  back  to  the  town.  A 
machine-gun  hurled  a  fan  of  whistling  bullets 
tirelessly  at  the  Cossacks;  in  front  of  them  and 
under  the  horses'  feet  the  bullets  tore  up 
woolly  spurts  of  dust. 

The  part  of  Grigory  that  before  the  attack 
had  sent  the  blood  coursing  faster  through  his 
veins  now  turned  to  stone  within  him;  he  felt 
nothing  except  the  ringing  in  his  ears  and  a 
pain  in  the  toes  of  his  left  foot.  His  thoughts, 
emasculated  by  fear,  congealed  in  a  heavy  mass 
in  his  head. 

Cornet  Lyakhovsky  was  the  first  to  drop  from 
his  horse.  Prokhor  rode  over  him.  Grigory 
glanced  back,  and  a  fragment  of  what  he  saw 
was  impressed  on  his  memory  as  though  cut  with 
a  diamond  on  glass.  As  Prokhor's  horse  leaped 
over  the  fallen  cornet,  it  bared  its  teeth  and 
stumbled.  Prokhor  was  catapulted  out  of  the 
saddle  and,  falling  headlong,  was  crushed  un- 
der the  hoofs  of  the  horse  behind  him.  Gri- 
gory heard  no  cry,  but  from  Prokhor's  face, 
with  its  distorted  mouth  and  its  calf-like  eyes 

439 


bulging  out  of  their  sockets,  he  realized  that 
he  must  be  screaming  inhumanly.  Others  fell, 
both  horses  and  Cossacks.  Through  the  film  of 
tears  caused  by  the  wind  in  his  eyes  Grigory 
stared  ahead  at  the  grey,  seething  mass  of 
Austrians  fleeing  from  the  trenches. 

The  squadron,  which  had  torn  away  from  the 
village  in  an  orderly  stream,  now  scattered  and 
broke  into  fragments.  Those  in  front,  Grigory 
among  them,  had  nearly  reached  the  trenches, 
others  were  lagging  behind. 

A  tall,  white-eyebrowed  Austrian,  his  cap 
drawn  over  his  eyes,  fired  almost  point-blank 
at  Grigory.  The  heat  of  the  bullet  scorched  his 
cheek.  He  struck  with  his  lance,  at  the  same 
time  pulling  on  the  reins  with  all  his  strength. 
The  blow  was  so  powerful  that  it  plunged  for 
half  a  shaft  length  into  the  Austrian's  body. 
Grigory  was  not  quick  enough  to  withdraw  the 
lance.  He  felt  a  quivering  convulsion  in  his 
hand,  and  saw  the  Austrian,  bent  right  back 
so  that  only  the  point  of  his  unshaven  chin  was 
visible,  clutching  the  shaft  and  clawing  at  it 
with  his  nails.  Grigory  dropped  the  lance  and 
felt  with  numbed  fingers  for  his  sabre-hilt. 

The  Austrians  fled  into  the  streets  of  the 
town.  Cossack  horses  reared  up  over  the  grey 
clots  of  their  uniforms. 

In  the  first  moment  after  dropping  his  lance 

440 


Grigory,  without  knowing  why,  turned  his 
horse  and  saw  the  sergeant-major  gallop  past 
him,  his  lips  parted  in  a  snarl.  Grigory  struck 
at  his  horse  with  the  flat  of  his  sabre;  arching 
its  neck,  it  carried  him  away  down  the  street. 
An  Austrian  was  running  along  by  the  rail- 
ings of  a  garden,  swaying,  without  a  rifle,  his 
cap  clutched  in  his  hand.  Grigory  saw  the  back 
of  his  head  and  the  damp  collar  of  his  tunic. 
He  overtook  him  and,  lashed  on  by  the  frenzy 
of  the  moment,  whirled  his  sabre  above  his 
head.  The  Austrian  was  running  close  to  the 
railings  on  the  left-hand  side,  and  it  was  awk- 
ward for  Grigory  to  hew  him  down.  But,  lean- 
ing over  his  saddle,  holding  his  sabre  aslant, 
he  struck  at  the  man's  temple.  Without  a  cry 
the  Austrian  pressed  his  hand  to  the  wound 
and  spun  around  with  his  back  to  the  railings. 
Grigory  rode  past  reining  in  his  horse,  turned 
round,  and  rode  back  at  a  trot.  The  square  fear- 
contorted  face  of  the  Austrian  was  black  as 
cast  iron.  His  arms  hung  at  his  sides,  his  ashen 
lips  were  quivering.  The  sabre  had  struck  him 
a  glancing  blow  on  the  temple,  and  the  flesh 
was  hanging  over  his  cheek  like  a  crimson  rag. 
The  blood  streamed  on  to  his  uniform.  Gri- 
gory's  eyes  met  the  terror-stricken  eyes  of  the 
Austrian.  The  man  was  sagging  at  the  knees; 
a  gurgling  groan  came  from  his  throat.  Screw- 

441 


ing  up  his  eyes,  Grigory  swept  his  sabre  down. 
The  blow  split  the  cranium  in  two.  The  man 
flung  out  his  arms  and  fell;  his  shattered  skull 
knocked  heavily  against  the  stone  of  the  road. 
At  the  sound  Grigory's  horse  reared  and,  snort- 
ing, carried  him  into  the  middle  of  the  street. 

Ragged  firing  sounded  in  the  streets.  A  foam- 
ing horse  carried  a  dead  Cossack  past  Gri- 
gory. One  foot  was  caught  in  the  stirrup,  and 
the  horse  was  dragging  the  bruised  and  bat- 
tered body  over  the  stones.  Grigory  saw  only 
the  red  stripe  on  the  trousers  and  the  torn 
green  tunic  drawn  in  a  bundle  over  the  head. 

Grigory  felt  a  leaden  heaviness  in  his  head. 
He  slipped  from  his  horse  and  shook  his  head 
vigorously.  Cossacks  of  the  Third  Squadron  gal- 
loped by.  A  wounded  man  was  carried  past  on 
a  greatcoat.  A  crowd  of  Austrian  prisoners  were 
driven  past  at  a  trot.  The  men  ran  in  a  huddled 
grey  herd,  their  iron-shod  boots  clattering 
joylessly  on  the  stones.  Grigory  saw  them  as 
a  jellied  blob,  the  colour  of  clay.  He  dropped 
his  horse's  reins  and  went  across  to  the  Aus- 
trian soldier  he  had  cut  down.  The  man  lay 
where  he  had  fallen,  by  the  fanciful  wrought- 
iron  work  of  the  railings,  his  dirty  brown  palm 
stretched  out  as  though  begging.  Grigory 
glanced  at  his  face.  It  seemed  small,  almost 
childlike,  despite  the  hanging  moustache  and  the 

442 


tortured  expression  (was  it  from  physical  suf- 
fering or  a  joyless  past?)  of  the  harsh,  dis- 
torted mouth. 

"Hey,  you!"  a  strange  Cossack  officer  shout- 
ed as  he  rode  down  the  middle  of  the  street. 

Grigory  looked  up  and  stumbled  across  to 
his  horse.  His  steps  were  heavy  and  tottering, 
as  though  he  were  carrying  an  unbearable 
weight  on  his  back.  Loathing  and  bewilder- 
ment crushed  his  spirit.  He  took  the  stirrup  in 
his  hand,  but  for  a  long  time  could  not  lift  his 
heavy  foot  into  it. 


VI 


The  first  reserve  Cossacks  from  Tatarsky  and 
the  neighbouring  villages  spent  the  second 
night  after  their  departure  from  home  in  a  little 
village.  The  men  from  the  lower  end  of  Ta- 
tarsky drew  into  a  separate  group  from  those 
of  the  upper  end,  so  Pyotr  Melekhov,  Anikush- 
ka,  Christonya,  Stepan  Astakhov,  Ivan  Tomilin 
and  others  were  all  billeted  in  one  house.  The 
Cossacks  had  lain  down  to  sleep,  spreading 
out  their  blankets  in  the  kitchen  and  the  front 
room,  and  were  having  a  last  smoke  for  the 
night.  The  master  of  the  house,  a  tall,  decrepit 
old  man  who  had  served  in  the  Turkish  war, 
sat  talking  with  them. 

443 


"So  you're  off  to  war,  soldiers?" 

"Yes,  Grandad,  off  to  war." 

"It  won't  be  anything  like  the  Turkish  war 
was,  I  don't  suppose.  They've  got  different 
weapons  now!" 

"It'll  be  just  the  same.  Just  as  devilish.  Just 
as  they  killed  people  then,  so  it'll  be  now," 
Tomilin  grunted,  angry  with  no  one  knew 
whom. 

"That's  stupid  talk,  young  fellow.  It'll  be  a 
different  kind  of  war." 

"  'Course  it  will,"  Christonya  affirmed,  yawn- 
ing lazily,  and  stubbing  out  a  cigarette  with 
his  finger-nail. 

"We'll  do  a  bit  of  fighting,"  Pyotr  Melekhov 
yawned  and,  making  the  sign  of  the  cross  over 
his  mouth,  covered  his  head  with  his  greatcoat. 

"My  sons,  I  ask  you  one  thing.  I  ask  you 
seriously,  and  you  mark  what  I  say,"  the  old 
man  said.  "Remember  this!  If  you  want  to  come 
back  from  the  mortal  struggle  alive  and  with 
a  whole  skin,  you  must  keep  the  law  of  hu- 
manity." 

"Which  one?"  Stepan  Astakhov  asked,  smil- 
ing distrustfully.  He  had  begun  to  smile  again 
from  the  day  he  heard  of  the  war.  The  war 
called  him,  and  the  general  anxiety  and  pain 
assuaged  his  own. 

"This  law:  don't    take    other    men's    goods. 

444 


That's  one.  As  you  fear  God,  don't  do 
wrong  to  any  woman.  That's  the  second.  And 
then  you  must  know  certain  prayers." 

The  Cossacks  sat  up,  and  all  spoke  at  once: 

"More  likely  to  lose  our  own  stuff  than  get 
other  people's!" 

"And  why  mustn't  we  touch  a  woman?  You 
can't  make  her,  but  suppose  she's  willing?" 

"It's  hard  to  be  without  a  woman." 

"You  bet!" 

"What  about  the  prayer?" 

The  old  man  fixed  his  eyes  sternly  on  them 
and  answered: 

"You  must  not  touch  a  woman.  Never!  If 
you  can't  restrain  yourselves  you'll  lose  your 
heads,  or  you'll  be  wounded.  You'll  be  sorry 
after,  but  then  it  will  be  too  late.  I'll  tell  you 
the  prayers.  I  went  right  through  the  Turkish 
war,  death  at  my  heels  like  a  saddle-bag,  but 
I  came  through  alive  because  of  these  prayers." 

He  went  into  the  other  room,  rummaged 
under  the  icon  and  brought  back  a  crumbling, 
faded  scrap  of  paper. 

"Get  up  now  and  write  them  down !"  he  com- 
manded. "You'll  be  off  again  before  cock-crow 
tomorrow,  won't  you?" 

He  spread  the  paper  out  on  the  table  and  left 
it.  Anikushka  was  the  first  to  get  up;  the  shad- 
ows cast  by  the  flickering  light  played  on  his 

445 


smooth,  womanish  face.  All  except  Stepan  sat 
down  and  wrote  out  the  prayers.  Anikushka 
rolled  up  the  paper  he  had  used  and  fastened 
it  to  the  string  of  the  crucifix  at  his  breast.  Ste- 
pan jeered  at  him: 

"That's  a  nice  nest  you've  made  for  the  lice, 
wasn't  the  cross  cosy  enough?" 

"Young  man,  if  you  don't  believe,  hold  your 
tongue!"  the  old  man  interrupted  him  sternly. 
"Don't  be  a  stumbling  block  to  others  and  don't 
laugh  at  faith.  It's  a  sin." 

Stepan  grinned,  but  he  lapsed  into  silence. 

The  prayers  which  the  Cossacks  wrote  down 
were  three,  one  could  take  one's  choice. 

THE  PRAYER  AGAINST  ARMS 

God  bless  us.  On  the  mountain  there  lies  a  white  stone 
like  a  horse.  As  water  enters  not  the  stone,  so  may  not 
bullet  and  arrow  enter  into  me,  the  slave  of  God,  nor 
my  comrades,  nor  my  horse.  As  the  hammer  flies  back 
from  the  anvil,  so  may  the  bullet  fly  back  from  me.  As 
millstones  turn,  so  may  the  arrow  turn  and  not  touch  me. 
As  the  sun  and  moon  are  bright,  so  may  I,  the  slave  of 
God,  be  strong.  Behind  this  mountain  there  is  a  fortress, 
I  shall  lock  this  fortress,  and  throw  the  key  into  the  sea. 
I  shall  put  it  under  the  white  stone  called  Altor  which 
can  be  seen  by  neither  sorcerers  nor  witches,  by  neither 
monks  nor  nuns.  Even  as  the  waters  flow  not  from  the 
ocean  and  the  yellow  grains  of  sand  cannot  be  counted,  so 
may  I,  the  slave  of  God,  suffer  no  harm.  In  the  name  of 
the  Father,  the  Son  and  the  Holy  Ghost.  Amen. 

446 


THE   PRAYER   IN   BATTLE 

There  is  a  great  ocean,  and  in  this  great  ocean  there 
is  a  white  stone,  Altor.  On  that  stone  there  is  a  stone 
man  of  mighty  stature.  Cover  me,  the  slave  of  God,  and 
my  comrades,  with  stone  from  east  to  west,  from  earth 
to  sky.  Protect  me  from  sharp  sabre  and  sword;  from 
steel  blade  and  bear-spear;  from  dagger  tempered  and 
untempered;  from  knife  and  axe,  and  from  cannon-fire; 
from  lead  bullets  and  mortal  weapons;  from  all  arrows 
feathered  with  the  feathers  of  eagles,  swans,  geese,  cranes, 
or  ravens;  from  all  battles  with  Turks,  Crimeans,  Austri- 
ans,  Tatars,  Lithuanians,  Germans  and  Kalmyks.  Holy 
Fathers  and  Heavenly  Powers,  protect  me,  the  slave  of 
God.  Amen. 

THE  PRAYER  IN  TIME  OF  ATTACK 

Supreme  Ruler,  Holy  Mother  of  God  and  our  Lord 
Jesus  Christ.  Bless,  Lord,  thy  servant  entering  battle,  and 
my  comrades  who  are  with  me.  Wrap  them  in  cloud,  with 
thy  heavenly,  stony  hail  protect  them.  Holy  Dmitry  of  Sa- 
lonica,  defend  me,  the  slave  of  God,  and  my  comrades  on 
all  four  sides;  suffer  not  evil  men  to  shoot,  nor  with  spear 
to  pierce,  nor  with  pole-axe  to  strike,  nor  with  butt-end 
of  axe  to  sm.ite,  nor  with  axe  to  hew  down,  nor  with 
sword  to  cut  down  or  pierce,  nor  with  knife  to  stab  or 
cut;  neither  old  nor  young,  neither  brown  nor  black; 
neither  heretic  nor  sorcerer,  nor  any  magic-worker.  All 
is  before  me  now,  the  slave  of  God,  orphaned  and  judged. 
In  the  sea,  in  the  ocean,  on  the  island  of  Buyan  stands  an 
iron  post;  on  the  post  is  an  iron  man  resting  on  an  iron 
staff,  and  he  biddeth  iron,  steel,  lead,  zinc  and  all  manner 
of  bolt:  "Go,  iron,  into  your  mother-earth  away  from  the 
slave  of  God  and   past  my  comrades  and  my  horse.  The 

447 


arrow-shafts  into  the  forest,  and  the  feather  to  its  mother- 
bird,  and  the  glue  to  the  fish."  Defend  me,  the  slave  of 
God,  with  a  golden  buckler  from  steel  and  from  bullet, 
from  cannon-fire  and  ball,  from  spear  and  knife.  May  my 
body  be  stronger  than   armour.  Amen. 

The  Cossacks  concealed  the  prayers  under 
their  shirts,  tying  them  to  the  little  icons  with 
which  their  mothers  had  blessed  them,  and  to 
the  little  bundles  of  their  native  earth.  But 
death  came  upon  all  alike,  upon  those  who  did 
not  carry  prayers  and  upon  those  who  did. 
Their  bodies  rotted  on  the  fields  of  Galicia  and 
East  Prussia,  in  the  Carpathians  and  Rumania, 
wherever  the  ruddy  flames  of  war  flickered  and 
the  hoof-marks  of  Cossack  horses  were  imprint- 
ed on  the  earth. 


VII 


It  was  usual  for  the  Cossacks  of  the  upper 
stanitsas  of  the  Don,  including  Vyeshenskaya, 
to  be  drafted  into  the  Eleventh  and  Twelfth 
Cossack  regiments  and  the  Ataman's  Life- 
guards. But  for  some  reason  part  of  the  enrol- 
ment of  1914  was  assigned  to  the  Third  Don 
Cossack  Regiment,  which  was  composed  main- 
ly of  Cossacks  from  the  Ust-Medveditskaya 
stanitsa.  Among  those  so  drafted  was  Mitka 
Korshunov. 

448 


The  Third  Don  Cossack  Regiment  was  sta- 
tioned at  Vilno,  together  with  certain  units  of 
the  Third  Cavalry  Division.  One  day  in  June 
the  various  squadrons  rode  out  from  the  city 
to  take  up  country  quarters. 

The  day  was  dull  but  warm.  The  flowing 
clouds  herded  together  in  the  sky  and  concealed 
the  sun.  The  regiment  was  marching  in  col- 
umn of  route.  The  regimental  band  blared  at 
the  head  of  the  column,  and  the  officers  in  their 
light  summer  caps  and  drill  uniforms  rode  in 
a  bunch  at  the  back,  a  cloud  of  cigarette  smoke 
rising  above  them. 

On  each  side  of  the  road  the  peasants  and 
their  gaily-dressed  womenfolk  were  cutting  the 
hay,  stopping  to  gaze  at  the  columns  of  Cos- 
sacks as  they  passed.  The  horses  sweated  in 
the  heat,  a  yellowish  foam  appeared  between 
their  legs,  and  the  light  breeze  blowing  from 
the  south-east  did  not  cool,  but  rather  intensi- 
fied the  steaming  swelter. 

They  had  gone  about  half  way  and  were  not 
far  from  a  small  village  when  a  young  year- 
ling colt  trotted  out  from  behind  a  fence  and, 
seeing  the  great  mass  of  horses,  whinnied  and 
came  prancing  up  in  front  of  the  Fifth  Squad- 
ron. Its  bushy  young  tail  waved  to  one  side 
and  the  dust  from  its  shapely  hoofs  scattered 
on  the  trampled  grass.  It  pranced  up  to  the  First 

29—1933  449 


Troop  and  poked  its  muzzle  stupidly  into  the 
groin  of  the  sergeant-major's  stallion.  The  stal- 
lion jibbed  but  took  pity  on  the  youngster  and 
did  not  kick. 

"Out  of  the  way,  daft-head!"  the  sergeant- 
major  shouted,  waving  his  whip.  But  the  colt 
looked  so  friendly  and  homely  that  the  other 
Cossacks  laughed.  Then  something  unexpected 
happened.  The  colt  cheekily  pushed  its  way  in 
between  the  ranks  and  the  platoon  broke  up 
and  lost  its  neat  formation.  The  horses  jibbed 
and  refused  to  obey  their  riders.  Squeezing  be- 
tween them,  the  colt  tried  to  bite  the  horse  next 
to  it. 

Up  galloped  the  squadron  commander: 

"What's  going  on  here?" 

The  horses  were  snorting  and  casting  side- 
long glances  at  the  scatter-brained  young  colt 
while  the  grinning  Cossacks  tried  to  drive  it 
off  with  their  whips.  The  troop  was  in  com- 
plete disorder  with  others  pressing  up  from  be- 
hind, and  the  furious  troop  officer  could  be  seen 
galloping  up  from  the  rear  of  the  column. 

"What's  all  this?"  boomed  the  squadron  com- 
mander, steering  his  horse  into  the  thick  of  the 
mob. 

"It's  a  colt.  .  .  ." 

"He's  got  between  us." 

"You  can't  get  rid  of  him,  the  devil!" 

450 


"Give  him  the  whip,  don't  pamper  him!" 

Grinning  sheepishly,  the  Cossacks  tried  to 
hold  in  their  excited  mounts. 

"Sergeant-major!  Squadron  commander,  what 
the  devil  is  happening?  Get  your  troops  in 
order!  I've  never  heard  of  such  a  thing!" 

The  squadron  commander  retired  from  the 
confusion  and  his  horse's  hindlegs  slipped  into 
the  roadside  ditch.  He  spurred  it  on  and  the 
horse  scrambled  out  on  to  a  bank  overgrown 
with  goosefoot  and  yellow  daisies.  In  the  dis- 
tance the  party  of  officers  had  stopped.  The  lieu- 
tenant-colonel had  his  head  thrown  back  and 
was  drinking  from  a  flask,  his  hand  resting 
with  fatherly  affection  on  his  saddle  pommel. 

The  sergeant-major  broke  up  the  troop  and, 
swearing  furiously,  drove  the  colt  off  the  road. 
The  troop  formed  up  again  and  a  hundred  and 
fifty  pairs  of  eyes  watched  the  sergeant-major 
standing  in  his  stirrups  as  he  chased  after  the 
colt.  But  the  colt  kept  stopping  and  edging 
up  to  the  sergeant-major's  giant  stallion,  then 
prancing  away  so  that  the  sergeant-major  could 
not  land  a  single  blow,  except  on  its  brush-like 
tail,  which  fell  under  the  lash  only  to  rise  again 
the  next  moment  and  wave  bravely  in  the  wind. 

The  whole  squadron  laughed,  including  the 
officers.  Even  the  captain's  gloomy  face 
twisted  into  a  crooked  semblance  of  a  smile. 

29*  451 


Mitka  Korshunov  was  riding  in  the  third 
rank  of  the  leading  troop  with  Mikhail  Ivan- 
kov  and  Kozma  Kruchkov,  both  from  stanitsas 
on  the  Don.  Ivankov,  broad  in  the  shoulders 
and  face,  kept  silent,  and  Kruchkov,  a  slightly 
pock-marked,  round-shouldered  Cossack,  known 
as  "the  camel,"  constantly  found  fault  with 
Mitka.  Kruchkov  was  an  "old"  Cossack, 
that  is,  a  Cossack  in  his  last  year  of  service, 
and  according  to  the  unwritten  rules  of  the 
regiment,  shared  with  all  other  "old"  Cossacks 
the  right  of  chasing  up  the  youngsters,  order- 
ing them  about  and  giving  them  "stripes"  for 
every  petty  offence.  The  established  punish- 
ment for  a  Cossack  of  the  1913  draft  was  thir- 
teen "stripes"  and  for  a  Cossack  drafted  in 
1914,  fourteen  "stripes."  The  sergeants  and 
officers  encouraged  this  system  on  the  ground 
that  it  imbued  a  Cossack  with  respect  not  only 
for  rank  but  for  age  as  well. 

Kruchkov,  who  had  recently  been  made  a 
corporal,  sat  hunched  in  his  saddle  like  a  bird. 
He  screwed  up  his  eyes  at  a  paunchy  grey  cloud 
and,  imitating  the  accent  of  the  squadron  com- 
mander Captain  Popov,  asked  Mitka: 

"Ah  .  .  .  te-e-11  me,  Korshunov,  what  do  we 
ca-a-all  our  squadron  comma-a-ander?" 

Mitka,  who  had  frequently  had  a  taste  of  the 

452 


strap  for  his  obstinacy  and  dislike  of  obedi- 
ence, put  on  a  respectful  expression. 

"Captain  Popov,   corporal!" 

"What?" 

"Captain  Popov,  corporal!" 

"That's  not  what  I  want  to  know.  You  tell 
me  what  we,  Cossacks,  call  him  'mongst  our- 
selves." 

Ivankov  gave  Mitka  a  cautioning  wink  and 
grinned  widely.  Mitka  glanced  round  and  sav. 
the  captain  riding  up  behind. 

"Now  then,  answer  up!" 

"He  is  called  Captain  Popov,  corporal." 

"Fourteen  stripes  for  you.  Answer  me,  you 
young  bastard!" 

"I  don't  know,  corporal." 

"When  we  get  to  camp,"  Kruchkov  said, 
speaking  in  his  normal  voice.  "I'll  belt  the  hide 
off  you.  Answer  my  question!" 

"I  don't  know." 

"Don't  you  know  the  nickname  we've  got  for 
him,  rat-face?" 

Mitka  heard  the  furtive  tread  of  the  cap- 
tain's horse  behind  them  and  remained  silent. 

"Well?"  Kruchkov  scowled  furiously. 

A  restrained  titter  broke  out  in  the  rear 
ranks.  Not  realizing  what  the  laughter  was 
about,  and  thinking  that  the  Cossacks  were 
laughing  at  him,  Kruchkov  snarled: 

4S3 


"Be  careful,  Korshunov!  I'll  give  you  fifty 
of  the  best  when  we  get  to  camp!" 

Mitka  shrugged  resignedly. 

"Black  goose." 

"That's  it." 

"Kruchkov!"  came  a  voice  from  behind. 

Corporal  Kruchkov,  the  "old"  Cossack,  start- 
ed in  his  saddle  and  sat  at  attention. 

"What's  your  game,  scoundrel?"  burst 
out  the  captain,  drawing  level  with  Kruch- 
kov. "What  are  you  teaching  this  young 
Cossack?" 

Kruchkov  blinked.  A  purple  flush  flooded 
his  cheeks.  Laughter  came  from  the  rear 
ranks. 

"Who  did  I  teach  a  lesson  to  last  year?  Who 
did  I  break  this  nail  on?"  The  captain  held 
the  long  pointed  nail  of  his  little  finger  under 
Kruchkov's  nose.  "Never  let  rne  hear  that  again! 
Understand,  my  man?" 

"Yes,  Your  Honour." 

The  captain  backed  out  of  line  and  let  the 
squadron  go  past. 

Kruchkov  straightened  his  shoulder-strap  and 
glanced  round  at  the  receding  figure  of  the  cap- 
tain. Adjusting  his  lance,  he  shook  his  head 
crossly: 

"Where  did  he  spring  from,  the  old  goose?" 

Perspiring  with  laughter,  Ivankov  told  him: 

454 


"He  was  riding  behind  us.  He  heard  every- 
thing. Must  have  guessed  what  you'd  be  talk- 
ing about." 

"You  should  have  given  me  a  wink,  block- 
head." 

"Should  I?" 

"Think  you  shouldn't,  eh?  Fourteen  of  the 
best!" 

On  arriving  at  its  destination,  the  regiment 
was  broken  up  by  squadrons  among  the  estates 
in  the  district.  During  the  day  the  Cossacks 
cut  the  clover  and  meadow  grass  for  the  land- 
owners; at  night  they  grazed  their  hobbled 
horses  in  the  fields  assigned  to  them,  and  played 
cards  or  told  stories  by  the  smoke  of  the  camp- 
fires.  The  Sixth  Squadron  was  billeted  on  the 
large  estate  of  a  Polish  landowner.  The  officers 
lived  in  the  house,  played  cards,  got  drunk, 
and  paid  attention  to  the  steward's  daughter; 
the  Cossacks  pitched  their  tents  a  couple  of 
versts  away  from  the  house.  Each  morning  the 
steward  drove  out  in  a  drozhki  to  their  camp. 
The  corpulent,  estimable  gentleman  would  get 
out  of  the  drozhki  and  invariably  welcome  the 
Cossacks  with  a  wave  of  his  white,  glossy- 
peaked  cap. 

"Come  and  cut  hay  with  us,  sir;  it'll  shake 
your  fat  down  a  bit,"  the  Cossacks  called  to  him. 
The  steward  smiled  phlegmatically,  wiped  his 

455- 


bald  head  with  his  handkerchief,  and  went  with 
the  sergeant-major  to  point  out  the  next  section 
of  hay  to  be  cut. 

At  midday  the  field-kitchen  arrived.  The  Cos- 
sacks washed  and  went  to  get  their  food. 

They  ate  in  silence,  but  in  the  rest  period 
after  dinner  made  up  for  their  lack  of  conver- 
sation. 

"Rotten  stuff,  the  grass  here.  Don't  compare 
with  the  steppe." 

"Not  much  quitch  though." 

"They've  finished  mowing  by  now  back 
home." 

"Will  be  finished  soon.  New  moon  yesterday, 
there'll  be  rain." 

"That  Pole's  a  mean  old  beggar.  Might  have 
stood  us  a  bottle  for  our  pains." 

"Ho-ho!  He'd  rob  the  altar  to  get  a  bottle 
himself." 

"See,  lads,  what  do  you  make  of  that?  The 
more  a  man's  got,  the  more  he  wants,  eh?" 

"Ask  the  tsar  about  that." 

"Who's  seen   the  master's   daughter?" 

"What  about  her?" 

"There's  a  wench  with  plenty  of  meat  on 
her!" 

"Aye.  .  .  ." 

"Don't  know  how  true  it  is,  but  they  say 
she's  had  proposals  from  the  royal  family," 

456 


"A  juicy  bit  like  her  wouldn't  go  to  a  com- 
mon man,  would  it?" 

"I've  heard  a  rumour,  lads,  that  there's  going 
to  be  a  big  review  for  us  soon." 

"What  did  I  say,  if  a  cat's  got  nothing  to  do, 
he'll.  .  .  ." 

"Put  a  sock  in  it,  Taras!" 

"Give  us  a  puff  of  your  fag,  boy?" 

"You  scrounging  devil,  you've  got  an  arm 
as  long  as  a  beggar's  at  the  church  door." 

"Look,  lads,  old  Fedot  can  pull  all  right." 

"He's  smoked  it  to  ash  already." 

"Look  again,  man,  it's  as  fiery  as  a  woman." 

They  lay  on  their  bellies,  smoking.  Their  bare 
backs  were  scorched  red  in  the  sun.  In  a  corner 
of  the  field  about  five  "old"  Cossacks  were 
questioning  a  new  recruit: 

"Where  d'ye  come  from?" 

"Yelanskaya." 

"From  the  salt  mines,  eh?" 

"Yes,  corporal." 

"How  do  they  cart  salt  down  your  way?" 

Not  far  off,  Kruchkov  lay  on  a  horse-cloth, 
idly  twisting  his  scanty  moustache  round  his 
finger. 

"With  horses." 

"And  what  else?" 

"Bullocks,  corporal." 

"And  how  do  they  bring  fish  from  the  Crimea? 

457 


You  know,  kind  of  bullock,  with  humps  on 
their  backs,  eat  thistles.  What  are  they  called?" 

"Camels." 

"Haw-haw-haw  \" 

Kruchkov  got  up  lazily  and  walked  towards 
the  guilty  recruit,  hunching  his  camel-like 
shoulders  and  stretching  out  his  saffron-swarthy 
neck  with  its  big  Adam's  apple. 

"Bend  over!"  he  commanded,  taking  off  his 
belt. 

In  the  hot  dusk  of  the  June  evening  the  Cos- 
sacks sang  around  the  camp-fires: 

A  Cossack  went  to  a  distant  land. 
Riding  his  horse  o'er  the  plain; 
His  native  village  he  left  for  aye; 

A  silvery  tenor  voice  sobbed  mournfully, 
while  the  basses  expressed  deep,  velvety  sorrow: 

He'll  n'er  come  hack  again. 

Now  the  tenor  rose  to  a  higher  pitch  of  grief: 

In  vain  did  his  youthful  Cossack  bride 
Gaze  northwards  every  morn  and  eve; 
Waiting  in  hope  that  her  Cossack  dear 
Would  return  from  the  land  he  ne'er  will 

leave. 

Many  voices  tended  the  song,  and  it  grew 
rich   and  heady  like  home-brewed  beer; 

458 


But  beyond   the   hills   where   the   snow   lies 

deep. 
The  ice-fields  crack  and  the  tempests  blow. 
Where  grimly  how  the  pines  and  firs 
The  Cossack's  hones  lie  beneath  the  snow. 

The  voices  told  their  simple  tale  of  Cossack 
life  and  the  tenor  supported  them  with  its  quiv- 
ering notes,  like  a  skylark  soaring  above  the 
thawed  earth  of  April: 

As  the  Cossack  lay  dying  he  pleaded  and 

begged 
That  above  him  a  mound  be  piled  on  his 

grave. 
Where  a  giielder-tree  from  his  native  land 
Its  blossoms  bright  should  for  ever  wave. 

At  another  camp-fire,  the  group  was  smaller 
and  the  song  was  in  a  different  strain: 

From  the  stormy  Azov  Sea, 
The  ships  are  sailing  up  the  Don, 
For  back  to  his  own  country 
A  young  ataman  has  come. 

At  yet  another,  the  squadron's  story-teller, 
coughing  from  the  smoke,  was  spinning  tales. 
The  Cossacks  listened  with  unflagging  atten- 
tion. Only  occasionally,  when  the  hero  of  the 
story  cleverly  escaped  from  a  plot    laid  against 

459 


him  by  the  evil  spirit,  did  someone's  hand 
gleam  white  in  the  fire-light  as  it  was  slapped 
against  the  leg  of  his  boot,  or  a  thick  smoky 
voice  gasp  delighted  approval.  Then  the  flow- 
ing, unbroken  tones  of  the  story-teller  would 
continue. 

A  week  or  so  after  the  regiment's  arrival  at 
its  country  quarters  the  squadron  commander 
sent  for  the  smith  and  the  sergeant-major. 

"What  condition  are  the  horses  in?" 

"Not  so  bad.  Your  Honour,  in  pretty  good 
shape." 

The  captain  twisted  the  black  moustache  that 
had  earned  him  his  nickname  and  said  in  his 
rasping  voice: 

"The  regimental  commander  has  issued  in- 
structions for  all  stirrups  and  bits  to  be  tinned. 
There  is  to  be  an  imperial  review  of  the  regi- 
ment. Let  everything  be  polished  until  it  gleams, 
the  saddles  and  the  rest  of  the  equipment. 
The  Cossacks  must  be  a  sight  to  gladden  the 
eye.  When  can  you  be  ready?" 

The  sergeant-major  looked  at  the  smith;  the 
smith  looked  at  the  sergeant-major.  Then  both 
of  them  looked  at  the  captain.  The  sergeant- 
major  suggested: 

"How  about  Sunday,  Your  Honour?"  and 
respectfully  touched  the  tip  of  his  tobacco- 
mouldered  moustache  with  his  finger, 

460 


"Mind  it  is  Sunday!"  the  captain  added 
threateningly  and  dismissed  them  both. 

The  preparations  for  the  review  were  put 
in  hand  the  same  day.  Ivankov,  son  of  the  squad- 
ron blacksmith  and  a  good  smith  himself, 
helped  to  tin  the  stirrups  and  bits.  The  Cos- 
sacks groomed  their  horses,  cleaned  the  bri- 
dles, and  rubbed  the  snaffles  and  other  metal 
parts  of  the  horses'  equipment  with  bath-brick. 
By  the  end  of  the  week  the  regiment  was  shin- 
ing like  a  new  twenty-kopeck  piece.  Everything 
glittered  with  polishing,  from  the  horses'  hoofs 
to  the  Cossacks'  faces.  On  the  Saturday  the 
regimental  commander  inspected  the  regiment 
and  thanked  the  officers  and  Cossacks  for  their 
zealous  preparations  and  splendid  appear- 
ance. 

The  azure  thread  of  July  days  reeled  past. 
The  Cossack  horses  were  in  perfect  condition; 
only  the  Cossacks  themselves  were  uneasy  and 
troubled  with  the  maggot  of  uncertainty.  Not 
a  whisper  was  to  be  heard  of  the  imperial  re- 
view. The  week  passed  in  unending  talk,  con- 
tinual preparation.  Then  like  a  bolt  from  the 
blue  came  an  order  for  the  regiment  to  return 
to  Vilno. 

They  were  back  in  the  city  by  evening.  A 
second  order  was  at  once  issued  to  the  squad- 
rons. The  Cossacks'  boxes  were  to  be  collected 

461 


and  stored  in  the  warehouse,  and  preparations 
made  for  a  possible  further  removal. 

"Your  Honour,  what's  it  all  about?"  the  Cos- 
sacks implored  their  troop  officers  for  the  truth. 
The  officers  shrugged  their  shoulders.  They 
themselves  would  have  given  a  lot  to  know  it. 

"I  don't  know." 

"Will  there  be  manoeuvres  in  the  presence 
of  His  Majesty?" 

"No  one  has  any  idea  yet." 

But  on  the  first  of  August  the  regimental 
commander's  orderly  managed  to  whisper  to  a 
friend: 

"It's  war,  my  boy!" 

"You're  lying!" 

"God's  truth!  But  not  a  word  to  anyone!" 

Next  morning  the  regiment  was  drawn  up 
in  squadrons  outside  the  barracks,  awaiting  the 
commander. 

At  the  head  of  the  Sixth  Squadron  rode  Cap- 
tain Popov  on  a  fine  mount.  His  left  hand,  im- 
maculately gloved,  held  the  bridle.  The  horse, 
arching  its  neck,  rubbed  its  muzzle  on  the  cord- 
ed muscles  of  its  chest. 

The  colonel  came  round  a  corner  of  the  bar- 
rack buildings  and,  riding  his  horse  to  the  front 
of  the  regiment,  turned  the  animal  sideways. 
The  adjutant,  elegantly  extending  his  little  fin- 
ger,   drew   out   his    handkerchief   to   wipe   his 

462 


nose,  but  had  no  time  to  accomplish  the  oper- 
ation. The  colonel  threw  his  voice  into  the  tense 
silence: 

"Cossacks!" 

"Now  it's  coming!"  everyone  thought.  The 
tension  held  them  like  a  steel  spring.  Mitka 
Korshunov's  horse  was  stepping  from  hoof  to 
hoof,  and  he  irritatedly  brought  his  heel  against 
its  flank.  Beside  him  Ivankov  sat  his  horse 
motionlessly,  listening  with  his  hare-lipped 
mouth  open,  exposing  a  dark  line  of  uneven 
teeth.  Kruchkov  was  behind  him,  hunching  his 
shoulders  and  frowning,  further  on  Lapin 
twitched  his  gristly  ears  like  a  horse,  while  be- 
hind him  could  be  seen  the  jagged  outline  of 
Shchegolkov's    clean-shaven  Adam's   apple. 

"Germany  has  declared  war  on  us.  .  .  ." 

Along  the  ranks  ran  a  whisper  as  though  a 
puff  of  wind  had  rippled  across  a  field  of  ripe, 
heavy-eared  oats.  A  horse's  neigh  slashed 
through  it.  Round  eyes  and  gaping  mouths 
turned  in  the  direction  of  the  First  Squadron 
where  the  animal  had  dared  to  neigh. 

The  colonel  said  much  more.  He  chose  his 
words  carefully,  seeking  to  arouse  a  feeling  of 
national  pride.  But  the  picture  that  rose  before 
the  thousand  Cossacks  was  not  of  silken  foreign 
banners  falling  rustling  at  their  feet,  but  of  their 
own   everyday   life   thrown   into   confusion,   of 

463 


their  wives,  children,  sweethearts,  of  ungath- 
ered  grain,  and  orphaned  villages  in  distress. 

"In  two  hours  we  entrain  .  .  ."  was  the  only 
thought  that  penetrated  all  minds. 

The  officers'  wives,  who  were  standing  in 
a  bunch  not  far  away,  wept  into  their  handker- 
chiefs. Lieutenant  Khoprov  had  almost  to  carry 
away  in  his  arms  his  blonde  pregnant  Polish 
wife. 

The  regiment  rode  singing  to  the  station.  The 
Cossacks'  voices  drowned  the  band,  and  it 
lapsed  into  confused  silence.  The  officers'  wives 
rode  in  drozhkis,  a  colourful  crowd  foamed 
along  the  pavements,  the  horses'  hoofs  raised 
a  cloud  of  dust.  Laughing  at  his  own  and 
others'  sorrow,  twitching  his  left  shoulder  so 
that  his  blue  shoulder-strap  tossed  hectically, 
the  leading  singer  struck  up  a  bawdy  Cossack 
song.  Deliberately  running  the  words  into  one 
another,  to  the  accompaniment  of  newly  shod 
hoofs  the  squadron  carried  its  song  along  to 
the  red  trucks  at  the  station.  The  adjutant,  his 
face  purple  with  laughter  and  embarrassment, 
galloped  up  to  the  singers.  One  of  the  Cossacks 
winked  cynically  at  the  crowd  of  women  see- 
ing them  off,  and  it  was  not  sweat  but  a 
bitter  brew  of  wormwood  that  streamed 
down  his  bronzed  cheeks  to  the  black  tips  of 
his  mouth. 

464 


On  the  track  the  engine  gave  a  warning  bel- 
low as  it  got  up  steam. 

Trains.  .  .  .  Trains.  .  .  .  Trains  innumerable. 

Along  the  country's  arteries,  over  the  rail- 
way lines  to  the  western  frontier,  a  seething, 
distracted  Russia  was  pumping  its  grey-coated 
blood. 

VIII 

At  a  little  town  on  the  line  the  regiment  was 
broken  up  into  its  respective  squadrons.  On  the 
instructions  of  the  divisional  staff  the  Sixth 
Squadron  was  put  at  the  disposal  of  the  Third 
Army  Infantry  Corps,  and  proceeded  to  Pelika- 
liye. 

The  border  was  still  guarded  by  frontier 
troops.  New  infantry  and  cavalry  units  were 
being  moved  up.  On  July  27th  the  squadron 
commander  sent  for  the  sergeant-major  and  a 
Cossack  named  Astakhov,  from  the  First  Troop. 
Astakhov  returned  to  the  troop  late  in  the  af- 
ternoon, just  as  Mitka  Korshunov  was  bringing 
his  horse  back  after  watering. 

"Is  that  you,  Astakhov?"  he  called. 

"Yes,  it's  me.  Where's  Kruchkov  and  the 
lads?" 

"Over  there,  in  the  hut." 

Astakhov,  a  massive,  swarthy  Cossack,  came 
into  the  hut  screwing  up  his  eyes  as  if  he  could 

30—1933  465 


not  see.  At  the  table  Shchegolkov  was  mend- 
ing a  broken  rein  by  the  light  of  a  wick-lamp. 
Kruchkov  was  standing  by  the  stove  with  his 
hands  behind  him,  winking  at  Ivankov  and 
pointing  to  the  owner  of  the  hut,  a  Pole,  who 
lay  on  his  bed,  swollen  with  dropsy. 

A  joke  had  just  passed  between  them,  and 
Ivankov's  cheek  was  still  twitching  with  laugh- 
ter. 

"Tomorrow,  lads,  we  go  out  at  daybreak  to 
an  outpost  at  Lyubov." 

"Who's  going?"  Mitka  inquired,  entering  at 
that  moment  and  setting  the  pitcher  down  at 
the  door. 

"Shchegolkov,  Kruchkov,  Rvachev,  Popov 
and  Ivankov." 

"And  what  about  me?" 

"You  stay  here,  Mitka." 

"Well,  then  the  devil  take  the  lot  of  you!" 

Kruchkov  wrenched  himself  away  from  the 
stove  and,  stretching  himself  till  his  bones 
cracked,  asked  the  host:  "How  far  is  it  to  this 
place?" 

"Four  versts." 

"It's  quite  near,"  said  Astakhov  and,  sitting 
down  on  a  bench,  took  off  his  boot.  "Where 
could  I  hang  up  a  foot-cloth  to  di-y?" 

They  set  out  at  dawn.  At  the  end  of  the  vil- 

466 


lage  a  bare-footed  girl  was  drawing  water  from 
a  well.  Kruchkov  reined  in  his  horse. 

"Give  us  a  drink,  lass!" 

Holding  up  her  homespun  skirt,  the  girl 
splashed  through  a  puddle  with  her  bare  feet. 
Her  grey  eyes  smiling  from  under  their  thick 
lashes,  she  held  out  the  bucket.  Kruchkov 
drank,  gripping  the  heavy  bucket  by  the  rim, 
his  hand  trembling  with  the  weight  of  it;  the 
water  dripped  and  splashed  on  to  the  red 
stripes  of  his  trousers. 

"Christ  save  you,  grey  eyes!" 

"The  Lord  be  praised." 

She  took  the  bucket  and  stepped  away,  glanc- 
ing round  and  smiling. 

"What  are  you  grinning  at?  Come  for  a  ride!" 

Kruchkov  shifted  in  his  saddle  as  if  to  make 
room  for  her. 

"Get  moving!"  Astakhov  shouted,  riding 
away. 

Rvachev  grinned  at  Kruchkov: 

"Can't  take  your  eyes  off  her,  eh?" 

"Her  legs  are  pink  as  a  pigeon's,"  Kruchkov 
said  with  a  laugh,  and  they  all  looked  round, 
as  if  by  word  of  command. 

The  girl  bent  over  the  well,  showing  the  cleft 
of  her  bottom  under  her  tight  skirt,  and  the 
pink  calves  of  her  parted  legs. 

"If  only  we  could  marry,"  Popov  sighed. 

30*  467 


"Suppose  I  marry  you  with  my  whip,"  As- 
takhov  suggested. 

"That  won't  help. .  . ." 

"Want  it  as  bad  as  that,  do  you?" 

"We'll  have  to  get  hold  of  him  and  do  him 
up  like  a  bull." 

The  Cossacks  cantered  on,  laughing  among 
themselves.  After  riding  steadily  for  some  time, 
they  topped  a  rise  and  saw  the  large  village 
of  Lyubov  lying  stretched  along  a  river  valley. 
The  sun  was  rising  behind  them.  Close  by,  a 
lark  sang  lustily,  perched  on  a  telegraph  pole. 

Astakhov,  who  had  been  put  in  charge  of  the 
group  because  he  had  just  finished  a  section 
commander's  course,  chose  the  last  farm  in  the 
village  for  their  observation  post,  as  it  was 
nearest  to  the  frontier.  The  master  of  the  farm, 
a  clean-shaven,  bandy-legged  Pole  in  a  white 
felt  hat,  showed  the  Cossacks  a  shed  in  which 
they  could  stable  their  horses.  Behind  the  shed 
was  a  green  field  of  clover.  Slopes  rolled  away 
to  a  neighbouring  wood,  and  a  white  stretch 
of  grain  was  intersected  by  a  road,  grassland 
lying  beyond.  They  took  turns  to  watch  with 
binoculars  from  the  ditch  behind  the  shed.  The 
others  lay  in  the  cool  shed,  which  smelled  of 
long-stored  grain,  dusty  chaff,  mice,  and  the 
sweetish,   mouldering  scent   of  damp  earth. 

Ivankov  made  himself  comfortable  in  a  dark 

468 


comer  beside  a  plough  and  slept  till  evening. 
At  sunset  Kruchkov  came  to  him  and  taking 
a  pinch  of  skin  on  Ivankov's  neck  between  his 
fingers  said  gently: 

"Sleeping  well  on  army  grub,  you  hog!  Get 
up  and  go  and  keep  watch  on  the  Germans!" 

"Stop  fooling,  Kozma!" 

"Up  you  get!" 

"Stop  it,  will  you!  I'm  just  getting  up." 

He  scrambled  to  his  feet,  his  face  red  and 
puffy,  worked  his  head  from  side  to  side  on 
the  stumpy  neck  that  held  it  firmly  to  his  broad 
shoulders,  sniffed  (he  had  caught  cold  from 
lying  on  the  damp  earth),  adjusted  his  cartridge 
belt  and  went  out  of  the  shed,  dragging  his 
rifle  by  its  sling.  He  relieved  Shchegolkov,  who 
had  been  on  duty  all  the  afternoon,  and  adjust- 
ing the  binoculars,  stared  in  the  direction  of 
the  north-west,  towards  the  wood. 

He  could  see  the  snowy  stretch  of  grain  wav- 
ing in  the  wind,  and  a  ruddy  flood  of  sunlight 
bathing  the  green  headland  of  fir  wood.  Chil- 
dren were  splashing  and  shouting  in  the  stream 
that  lay  in  a  fine  blue  curve  beyond  the  village. 
A  woman's  contralto  voice  called:  "Stassya, 
Stassya!  Come  here!" 

Shchegolkov  lit  a  cigarette,  and  remarked  as 
he  went  back  to  the  shed:  "Look  at  the  glow 
of  that  sunset!  We'll  be  having  some  wind." 

469 


"Reckon  so,"  Ivankov  agreed. 

That  night  the  horses  stood  unsaddled.  In 
the  village  all  lights  were  extinguished  and  all 
sound  died  away. 

The  next  morning  Kruchkov  called  Ivankov 
from  the  shed. 

"Let's  go  to  town." 

"What  for?" 

"We  can  get  something  to  eat  and  have  a 
drink  there." 

"Can  we?"  Ivankov  looked  doubtful. 

"Sure  we  can.  I  asked  our  host.  It's  over  there 
in  that  house.  See  the  tiled  roof?"  Kruchkov 
pointed  with  his  black-nailed  finger.  "The 
Sheeny  over  there  has  beer.  Let's  go." 

They  started  out.  Astakhov  called  after  them: 

"Where  are  you  going?" 

Kruchkov,  who  was  senior  in  rank  to  Asta- 
khov, waved  him  aside. 

"We'll  be  back  soon," 

"Come  back,  lads!" 

"Stop  barking!" 

An  old  Jew  with  a  wrinkled  eyelid  and  long 
side-curls  bowed  them  in. 

"Got  any  beer?" 

"None  left.  Mister  Cossack." 

"We'll  pay  for  it." 

"Jesus-Maria,  as  if  I  .  .  ,  Mister  Cossack,  be- 
lieve an  honest  Jew,  I  have  no  more  beer!" 

470 


"You're  lying.  Sheeny!" 

"Mister  Cossack,  I'm  telling  you.  .  .  ." 

"Look  here,"  Kruchkov  vexedly  interrupted, 
pulling  a  shabby  purse  from  his  trouser  pocket. 
"Get  us  some  beer  or  I'll  get  angry." 

The  Jew  pressed  the  coin  between  his  palm 
and  little  finger,  lowered  his  twisted  lid  and 
went  into  the  passage. 

A  minute  later  he  brought  a  bottle  of  vodka, 
damp  and  plastered  with  barley-chaff. 

"And  you  told  us  you  didn't  have  any!  You 
old...!" 

"I  said  I  had  no  beer." 

"Get  us  something  to  eat." 

Kruchkov  slapped  the  bottom  of  the  bottle  to 
knock  out  the  cork,  and  poured  himself  a  cup 
of  vodka. 

They  went  out  half  drunk.  Kruchkov  pranced 
along,  shaking  his  fist  at  the  black  empty 
sockets  of  the  windows. 

In  the  shed,  Astakhov  was  yawning.  Behind 
the  wall  horses  were  munching  damp  hay. 

The  day  passed  in  idleness.  In  the  afternoon 
Popov  was  sent  back  to  the  squadron  with 
a  report. 

Evening.  Night.  The  yellow  rim  of  the  young 
moon  rose  over  the  village.  From  time  to  time 
a  ripe  apple  dropped  with  a  soft  squelching 
thud  from  the  tree  in  the  garden. 

471 


About  midnight,  while  Ivankov  was  on  guard, 
he  heard  the  sound  of  horses  along  the  vil- 
lage street.  He  crawled  out  of  the  ditch  to  look, 
but  the  moon  was  swathed  in  cloud,  and  he 
could  see  nothing  through  the  impenetrable 
darkness.  He  went  and  awoke  Kruchkov,  who 
was  sleeping  at  the  door. 

"Kozma!  Horsemen  coming!  Get  up!" 

"Where  from?" 

"They're  riding  into  the  village." 

They  went  out.  The  clatter  of  hoofs  came 
clearly  from  the  street,  some  hundred  yards 
away. 

"Let's  go  into  the  garden.  We  can  hear  better 
there." 

They  ran  past  the  hut  into  the  tiny  front  gar- 
den, and  dropped  down  by  the  fence.  The  jin- 
gle of  stirrups  and  creak  of  saddles  came  near- 
er. Now  they  could  see  the  dim  outline  of  the 
horsemen  riding  four  abreast. 

"Who  goes  there?" 

"And  what  do  you  want?"  a  voice  answered 
in  Russian  from  the  leading  rank. 

"Who  goes  there?  I  shall  fire!"  Kruchkov 
rattled  the  bolt  of  his  rifle. 

One  of  the  riders  reined  in  his  horse  and 
turned  it  towards  the  fence. 

"We're  the  frontier  guard,"  he  said.  "Are 
you  an  outpost?" 

472 


"Yes." 

"What  regiment?" 

"The  Third  Cossack. .  . ." 

"Who  are  you  talking  to  there,  Trishin?" 
a  voice  called  out  of  the  darkness.  The  man  by 
the  fence  replied: 

"There's  a  Cossack  outpost  stationed  here. 
Your  Honour." 

A  second  horseman  rode  up  to  the  fence. 

"Hullo  there,  Cossacks!" 

"Hullo,"  Ivankov  answered  guardedly. 

"Have  you  been  here  long?" 

"Since  yesterday." 

The  second  rider  struck  a  match  and  lighted 
a  cigarette.  By  the  momentary  gleam  Kruchkov 
saw  an  officer  of  the  frontier  guard. 

"Our  regiment  is  being  withdrawn,"  the  officer 
said.  "You  must  bear  well  in  mind  that  you're 
now  the  farthest  outpost.  The  enemy  may  ad- 
vance tomorrow."  He  turned  and  gave  the  or- 
der for  his  men  to  ride  on. 

"Where  are  you  making  for.  Your  Honour?" 
Kruchkov  asked,  keeping  his  finger  on  the 
trigger. 

"We  are  to  link  up  with  our  squadron  two 
versts  from  here.  Come  on,  lads,  let's  move. 
Good  luck,  Cossacks!" 

"Good  luck." 

At  that  moment  the  wind  pitilessly  tore  the 

473 


apron  of  cloud  from  the  moon,  and  over  the 
village,  the  gardens,  the  steep  roof  of  the  hut 
and  the  detachment  of  frontier  guards  riding 
up  the  hill,  fell  a  flood  of  deathly  yellow  light. 

Next  morning  Rvachev  rode  back  to  the 
squadron  with  a  report.  During  the  night  the 
horses  had  stood  saddled.  The  Cossacks  were 
alarmed  by  the  thought  that  they  were  now 
left  to  confront  the  enemy.  They  had  experi- 
enced no  feeling  of  isolation  and  loneliness  so 
long  as  they  knew  the  frontier  guard  was  ahead 
of  them,  but  the  news  that  the  frontier  was 
open  had  had  a  marked  effect  upon  them. 

Astakhov  had  a  talk  with  the  Polish  farmer, 
and  for  a  small  sum  the  man  agreed  to  let  them 
cut  clover  for  their  horses.  The  Pole's  meadow 
lay  not  far  from  the  shed.  Astakhov  sent  Ivan- 
kov  and  Shchegolkov  to  mow.  Shchegolkov 
mowed  while  Ivankov  raked  the  dank,  heavy 
grass  together  and  tied  it  into  bundles. 

As  they  were  thus  occupied,  Astakhov,  who 
was  gazing  through  the  binoculars  along  the 
road  leading  to  the  frontier,  noticed  a  boy  run- 
ning across  the  fields  from  the  south-west.  The 
lad  ran  down  the  hill  like  a  brown  hare;  when 
still  some  distance  off  he  shouted  and  waved 
the  long  sleeve  of  his  coat.  He  ran  up  to  Asta- 
khov, gasping  for  breath  and  rolling  his  eyes, 
and  panted: 

474 


"Cossack!  Cossack!  The  Germans!  The  Ger- 
mans are  coming!" 

He  pointed  with  his  hand.  Holding  the  binoc- 
ulars to  his  eyes,  Astakhov  saw  a  distant 
bunch  of  horsemen.  Without  removing  the 
binoculars  he  shouted: 

"Kruchkov!" 

Kruchkov  appeared  from  the  shed,  looking 
round. 

"Run  and  call  the  lads.  A  German  patrol 
is  coming!" 

He  heard  Kruchkov  dash  away  and  now  he 
could  clearly  see  the  group  of  horsemen  flow- 
ing along  beyond  the  greyish  streak  of  grass- 
land. He  could  even  make  out  the  bay  colour 
of  their  horses  and  the  dark-blue  tint  of  their 
uniforms.  There  were  over  twenty  of  them,  and 
they  were  riding  in  a  compact  mass,  coming 
from  the  south-west,  whereas  he  had  been  ex- 
pecting them  from  the  north-west.  They  crossed 
the  road  and  struck  along  the  ridge  above  the 
valley  in  which  the  village  lay. 

Breathing  hard,  the  tip  of  his  tongue  show- 
ing between  his  tight-pressed  lips,  Ivankov  was 
stuffing  an  armful  of  grass  into  a  forage  sack. 
The  bandy-legged  Pole  stood  near  by,  sucking 
a  pipe.  With  his  hands  tucked  into  his  belt  he 
stared  from  under  the  brim  of  his  hat  at  Shche- 
golkov,  who  was  mowing. 

475 


"Call  this  a  scythe?"  Shchegolkov  grumbled, 
wielding  the  toy-like  blade  fiercely.  "Do  you 
mow  with  it?" 

"I  mow,"  the  Pole  replied  and  took  one  fin- 
ger out  of  his  belt. 

"This  scythe  of  yours  is  just  about  big  enough 
to  mow  a  woman  in  the  right  place!" 

"Uh-huh,"  the  Pole  agreed. 

Ivankov  giggled.  He  was  about  to  say  some- 
thing but,  looking  round,  saw  Kruchkov  run- 
ning across  the  rough  ploughland  with  his  hand 
on  his  sabre. 

"Drop  it!"  he  shouted  as  he  came  up. 

"Now  what's  the  matter?"  Shchegolkov  asked, 
thrusting  the  point  of  the  scythe  into  the  ground, 

"The  Germans!" 

Ivankov  threw  down  the  bundle  of  grass. 
The  Pole,  bending  double  as  if  bullets  were  al- 
ready whistling  over  his  head,  ran  off  to  the 
house. 

They  had  just  reached  the  shed  and  jumped 
on  their  horses  when  they  saw  a  company  of 
Russian  soldiers  entering  the  village  from  the 
direction  of  Pelikaliye.  The  Cossacks  galloped 
to  meet  them.  Astakhov  reported  to  the  com- 
pany commander  that  a  German  detachment 
was  making  its  way  round  the  village  by  way 
of  the  hill.  The  captain  inspected  the  dust- 
sprinkled  toes  of  his  boots  severely  and  asked: 

476 


"How  many  are  there?" 

"More  than  twenty." 

"Cut  them  off  and  we'll  fire  on  them  from 
here."  He  turned  to  his  company,  ordered  them 
to  form  up  and  led  them  away  at  a  rapid 
march. 

When  the  Cossacks  reached  the  crest  of  the 
hill  the  Germans  were  already  between  them 
and  the  town  of  Pelikaliye.  They  were  riding  at 
a  trot,  led  by  an  officer  on  a  dock-tailed  roan. 

"After  them!  We'll  drive  them  along  to  our 
second  outpost,"   Astakhov  ordered. 

The  mounted  frontier  guard  who  had  joined 
up  with  them  in  the  village  lagged  behind. 

"What's  up?  Leaving  us,  brother?"  Astakhov 
shouted,  turning  in  his  saddle. 

The  frontier  guard  waved  carelessly  and 
rode  down  into  the  village  at  a  walking  pace. 
The  Cossacks  put  their  horses  into  a  swift 
trot.  The  blue  uniforms  of  the  German  dragoons 
were  clearly  visible.  They  had  caught  sight  of 
the  Cossacks  following  them,  and  were  canter- 
ing in  the  direction  of  the  second  Russian  out- 
post, which  was  stationed  at  a  farm  some  three 
versts  back  from  the  village  of  Lyubov.  The 
distance  between  the  two  parties  perceptibly 
diminished. 

"We'll  fire  at  them!"  Astakhov  shouted, 
jumping  from  his  saddle. 

477 


Standing  with  the  reins  looped  over  their 
arms,  the  Cossacks  fired.  Ivankov's  horse 
reared  at  the  shot  and  sent  him  headlong.  As 
he  fell  he  saw  one  of  the  Germans  first  lean  to 
one  side,  then,  throwing  out  his  arms,  sudden- 
ly tumble  from  his  saddle.  The  others  did  not 
stop  or  even  unsling  their  carbines  from  their 
shoulders,  but  rode  on  at  a  gallop  in  open  for- 
mation. The  pennants  on  their  lances  fluttered 
in  the  wind.  Astakhov  was  the  first  to  re- 
mount his  horse.  The  Cossacks  plied  their 
whips.  The  Germans  swung  to  the  left,  and  the 
Cossacks  following  them  passed  close  to  the 
fallen  dragoon.  Beyond,  an  undulating  stretch 
of  country  was  intersected  with  shallow  ravines. 
As  the  Germans  rode  up  the  farther  side  of 
each  ravine  the  Cossacks  dismounted  and  sent 
shots  after  them.  A  little  farther  on  another 
German  went  down. 

"Our  Cossacks  should  be  coming  from  that 
farm  in  a  minute.  That's  the  second  outpost," 
Astakhov  muttered,  thrusting  a  cartridge  clip 
into  the  magazine  of  his  rifle  with  his  tobacco- 
stained  finger.  The  Germans  broke  into  a  steady 
trot.  As  the  Cossacks  rode  past  the  farm  they 
glanced  towards  it,  but  it  was  deserted.  The 
sun  licked  greedily  at  the  tiled  roof.  Afterwards 
they  learned  that  the  outpost  had  withdrawn 
the  previous  night,  having  discovered  that  the 

478 


telegraph  wires  about  half  a  verst  away  had 
been  cut. 

Astakhov  sent  another  shot  after  the  Ger- 
mans, firing  from  the  saddle,  and  one  of  them 
who  had  been  lagging  slightly  behind  shook 
his  head  and  spurred  on  his  horse. 

"We'll  drive  them  along  to  the  first  outpost," 
Astakhov  shouted,  turning  round  to  the  others 
behind  him.  As  he  did  so,  Ivankov  noticed  that 
Astakhov's  nose  was  peeling  and  a  piece  of 
skin  was  hanging  from  his  nostril. 

"Why  don't  they  turn  and  defend  them- 
selves?" he  asked  anxiously,  adjusting  his 
rifle  on  his  back. 

"Wait  and  see,"  grunted  Shchegolkov,  pant- 
ing like  a  broken-winded  horse. 

The  Germans  dropped  into  a  ravine  and 
disappeared.  On  the  farther  side  was  ploughed 
land.  On  this  side,  scrub  and  an  occasional 
bush.  Astakhov  reined  in  his  horse,  pushed 
back  his  cap,  and  wiped  the  beads  of  sweat 
away  with  the  back  of  his  hand.  He  looked  at 
the  others,  spat  and  said: 

"Ivankov,  you  ride  down  and  see  where 
they've  got  to." 

Ivankov,  red  in  the  face,  his  back  damp  with 
sweat,  licked  his  crusted  lips  thirstily  and  rode 
off. 

479 


"Oh    for    a    smoke!"    Kruchkov    muttered, 
driving  the  gadflies  off  with  his  whip. 

Ivankov  rode  steadily  down  into  the  ravine, 
rising  in  his  stirrups  and  gazing  across  the 
bottom.  Suddenly  he  saw  the  glittering  points 
of  lances;  then  the  Germans  appeared;  they 
had  turned  their  horses  and  were  galloping 
back  up  the  slope  to  the  attack.  The  officer 
was  in  front,  his  sword  raised  picturesquely. 
In  the  seconds  that  elapsed  while  Ivankov 
wheeled  his  horse,  the  moody  clean-shaven  face 
of  the  officer  and  the  fine  way  he  sat  in  the 
saddle  engraved  themselves  on  Ivankov's 
memory.  The  thunder  of  German  horses'  hoofs 
flailed  his  heart.  His  back  felt  the  pinching 
chill  of  death  almost  painfully.  Without  a  cry 
he  wheeled  his  horse  round  and  rode  back 
towards  the  others. 

Astakhov  did  not  have  time  to  put  his 
tobacco  pouch  in  his  pocket.  Seeing  the  Ger- 
mans behind  Ivankov,  Kruchkov  was  the  first 
to  ride  down  to  meet  them.  The  dragoons  on 
the  right  flank  were  sweeping  round  to  cut 
Ivankov  off,  and  were  overtaking  him  at  amaz- 
ing speed.  Ivankov  was  lashing  at  his  horse, 
wry  shudders  passing  over  his  face  and  his 
eyes  starting  out  of  his  head.  Bent  to  the 
saddle-bow,  Astakhov  took  the  lead.  Brown 
dust  boiled  in  the  horses'  wake. 

480 


"Any  moment  now  they'll  catch  me!"  The 
numbing  thought  gripped  Ivankov's  mind  and 
it  did  not  occur  to  him  to  show  resistance.  He 
gathered  his  great  body  into  a  ball,  his  head 
touching  his  horse's  mane. 

A  big,  ruddy-faced  German  overtook  him 
and  thrust  his  lance  at  his  back.  The  point 
pierced  Ivankov's  leather  belt  and  passed 
sideways  for  about  an  inch  into  his  body. 

"Brothers,  turn  back!"  he  shouted  insanely, 
drawing  his  sabre.  He  parried  a  second  thrust 
aimed  at  his  side,  and  cut  down  a  German 
riding  at  him  from  the  left.  The  next  moment 
he  was  surrounded.  A  burly  German  horse 
struck  the  side  of  his  mount,  almost  knocking 
it  off  its  feet,  and  Ivankov  got  a  terrible  blurred 
close-up  of  an  enemy  face. 

Astakhov  was  the  first  to  reach  the  group. 
He  was  driven  off.  He  swung  his  sabre  and 
twisted  like  an  eel  in  his  saddle,  his  teeth  bared, 
his  face  changed  and  deathly.  Ivankov  was 
lashed  across  the  neck  with  the  point  of  a 
sword.  A  dragoon  towered  above  him  on  the 
left,  and  the  terrifying  gleam  of  steel  glittered 
in  his  eyes.  He  countered  with  his  sabre;  steel 
clashed  against  steel.  From  behind,  a  lance 
caught  in  his  shoulder-strap  and  thrust  insist- 
ently, tearing  the  strap  away.  Beyond  his  horse's 
head     appeared  the  perspiring,     fevered     face 

31—1933  481 


of  a  freckled  elderly  German,  who  tried  to  get 
at  Ivankov's  chest  with  his  sword.  But  the 
sword  would  not  reach,  and  dropping  it,  the 
German  tore  his  carbine  from  its  yellow  saddle- 
holster,  his  blinking  eyes  fixed  on  Ivankov's 
face.  He  did  not  succeed  in  freeing  his  carbine, 
for  Kruchkov  reached  at  him  across  his  horse 
with  a  lance.  The  German,  tearing  the  lance 
away  from  his  breast,  threw  himself  back, 
groaning  in  fear  and  astonishment. 

Eight  dragoons  surrounded  Kruchkov,  trying 
to  capture  him  alive.  But  causing  his  horse  to 
rear,  he  fought  until  they  succeeded  in  knock- 
ing the  sabre  out  of  his  hand.  He  snatched  a 
lance  from  a  German  and  wielded  it  as  though 
on  the  parade  ground.  Beaten  back,  the  Ger- 
mans hacked  at  the  lance  with  their  swords. 
They  bunched  together  over  a  small  patch  of 
dismal,  clayey  ploughed  land,  seething  and  rock- 
ing in  the  struggle  as  though  shaken  by  the 
wind. 

Maddened  with  terror,  the  Cossacks  and  Ger- 
mans thrust  and  hacked  at  whatever  came  their 
way:  backs,  arms,  horses  and  weapons.  The 
horses  jostled  and  kicked  against  one  another 
in  a  frenzy  of  mortal  fear.  Regaining  some 
measure  of  self-command,  Ivankov  tried  sever- 
al times  to  strike  at  the  head  of  a  long-faced, 
flaxen-haired  German  who  had  fastened  on  him, 

482 


but  his  sabre  fell  on  the  man's  helmet  and 
slipped  off. 

Astakhov  broke  through  the  ring  and  galloped 
free,  streaming  with  blood.  The  German  officer 
chased  after  him.  Tearing  his  rifle  from  his 
shoulder,  Astakhov  fired  and  killed  him  almost 
at  point-blank  range.  This  proved  to  be  the  turn- 
ing-point in  the  struggle.  Having  lost  their 
commander,  the  Germans,  all  of  them  wounded 
with  clumsy  blows,  dispersed  and  retreated. 
The  Cossacks  did  not  pursue  them.  They  did 
not  fire  after  them.  They  rode  straight  back  to 
their  squadron  at  Pelikaliye,  while  the  Germans 
picked  up  a  wounded  comrade  and  fled  towards 
the  frontier. 

After  riding  perhaps  half  a  verst  Ivankov 
swayed  in  his  saddle. 

"I'm.  ...  I  shall  drop  .  .  ."  he  halted  his 
horse.  But  Astakhov  pulled  at  his  reins,  crying: 

"Come  on!" 

Kruchkov  smeared  the  blood  over  his  face 
and  felt  his  chest.  Crimson  spots  were  showing 
damply  on  his  shirt.  Beyond  the  farm  where  the 
second  outpost  had  been  stationed  the  party  dis- 
agreed as  to  the  way. 

"To  the  right!"  Astakhov  said,  pointing  to- 
wards the  green,  swampy  ground  of  an  alder 
wood. 

"No,  to  the  left!"  Kruchkov  insisted. 

31*  483 


They  separated.  Astakhov  and  Ivankov  ar- 
rived at  the  regimental  headquarters  after  Kruch- 
kov  and  Shchegolkov.  They  found  the  Cossacks 
of  their  squadron  awaiting  them.  Ivankov 
dropped  the  reins,  jumped  from  the  saddle, 
swayed  and  fell.  They  had  difficulty  in  freeing 
the  sabre-hilt  from  his  clutching  fingers. 

Within  an  hour  almost  the  entire  squadron 
rode  out  to  where  the  German  officer  lay.  The 
Cossacks  removed  his  boots,  clothing  and  weap- 
ons and  crowded  around  to  look  at  the  young, 
frowning,  yellow  face  of  the  dead  man.  One  of 
them  managed  to  capture  the  officer's  watch 
with  a  silver  face-guard,  and  sold  it  on  the  spot 
to  his  troop  sergeant.  In  a  wallet  they  found  a 
few  bank-notes,  a  letter,  a  lock  of  flaxen  hair 
and  a  photograph  of  a  girl  with  a  proud,  smiling 
mouth. 

IX 

Afterwards  this  incident  was  transformed  into 
a  heroic  exploit.  Kruchkov,  a  favourite  of  the 
squadron  commander,  received  the  Cross  of  St. 
George.  His  comrades  remained  in  shadow.  The 
hero  was  sent  to  the  divisional  staff  headquart- 
ers, where  he  lived  in  clover  until  the  end  of  the 
war,  receiving  three  more  crosses  because  influ- 
ential ladies  and  officers  came  from  Petersburg 
and  Moscow  to  look  at  him.  The  ladies  "ah-ed" 

484 


and  "oh-ed,"  and  regaled  the  Don  Cossack  with 
expensive  cigarettes  and  chocolates.  At  first  he 
cursed  them  by  all  the  devils,  but  afterwards, 
under  the  benevolent  influence  of  the  staff 
toadies  in  officers'  uniform,  he  made  a  remunera- 
tive business  of  it.  He  told  the  story  of  his  "ex- 
ploit," laying  the  colours  on  thick  and  lying 
without  a  twinge  of  conscience,  while  the  ladies 
went  into  raptures,  and  stared  admiringly  at  the 
pock-marked,  brigand  face  of  the  Cossack  hero. 
Everyone  was  pleased  and  happy. 

The  tsar  visited  headquarters,  and  Kruchkov 
was  taken  to  be  shown  to  him.  The  sleepy  emper- 
or looked  Kruchkov  over  as  if  he  were  a  horse, 
blinked  his  heavy  eyelids,  and  patted  the 
Cossack  on  the  shoulder. 

"A  fine  Cossack  lad!"  he  remarked  and, 
turning  to  his  suite,  asked  for  some  Seltzer 
water. 

Kruchkov's  forelock  figured  constantly  in  the 
newspapers  and  magazines.  There  were  Kruch- 
kov brands  of  cigarettes.  The  merchants  of 
Nizhny-Novgorod  presented  him  with  a  gold- 
mounted  sabre. 

The  uniform  taken  from  the  German  officer 
Astakhov  had  killed  was  mailed  to  a  plywood 
board  and  General  von  Rennenkampf  put  it  in 
his  car  with  Ivankov  and  his  adjutant  to  hold  it 
and  drove  before  parading  troops  about  to  go 

485 


to  the  front,  making  the  customary  fiery 
speeches  in  the  official  jargon. 

And  what  had  really  happened?  Men,  who 
had  not  yet  acquired  the  knack  of  killing  their 
own  kind,  had  clashed  on  the  field  of  death,  and 
in  the  mortal  terror  that  embraced  them,  had 
charged,  and  struck,  and  battered  blindly  at  each 
other,  mutilating  one  another  and  their  horses; 
then  they  had  turned  and  fled,  frightened  by  a 
shot  which  had  killed  one  of  their  number.  They 
had  ridden  away  morally  crippled. 

And  it  was  called  a  heroic  exploit. 

X 

The  front  was  not  yet  the  huge  unyielding  vi- 
per that  it  was  to  become.  Cavalry  skirmishes 
and  battles  flared  up  along  the  frontier.  In  the 
days  immediately  following  the  declaration  of 
war  the  German  command  put  out  feelers  in  the 
shape  of  strong  cavalry  detachments  that 
caused  alarm  among  the  Russian  troops 
by  slipping  past  the  frontier  posts  and  spy- 
ing out  the  disposition  and  numbers  of  their 
forces.  The  Russian  Eighth  Army  was  screened 
by  the  12th  Cavalry  Division  under  the  com- 
mand of  General  Kaledin.  On  its  left  flank  the 
11th  Cavalry  Division  had  advanced  across  the 
Austrian  frontier,  but  having  captured  Leshnuv 

486 


and  Brodi,  was  brought  to  a  halt  when  the  Aus- 
trians  were  reinforced  by  Hungarian  caval- 
ry. The  Hungarian  cavalry  hurled  itself  at  the 
Russian  units  and  forced  them  back  towards 
Brodi. 

Since  his  first  battle  Grigory  Melekhov  had 
been  tormented  by  a  dreary  inward  pain.  He 
grew  noticeably  thinner  and  frequently,  whether 
on  the  march  or  resting,  sleeping  or  waking, 
he  saw  the  features  and  form  of  the  Austrian 
whom  he  had  killed  by  the  railings.  In  his  sleep 
he  lived  again  and  again  through  that  first 
battle,  and  even  felt  the  shuddering  convulsion 
of  his  right  hand  clutching  the  lance.  He  would 
awaken  and  drive  the  dream  off  violently, 
shading  his  painfully  screwed-up  eyes  with 
his  hand. 

The  cavalry  trampled  down  the  ripened  corn 
and  scarred  the  fields  with  hoofprints,  and  it 
was  as  though  a  pounding  hailstorm  had  swept 
Galicia.  The  heavy  soldiers'  boots  tramped  the 
roads,  scratched  the  macadam,  churned  up  the 
August  mud.  The  gloomy  face  of  the  earth  was 
pock-marked  with  shells;  fragments  of  iron  and 
steel  rusted  there,  yearning  for  human  blood. 
At  night  ruddy  flickerings  lit  up  the  horizon: 
trees,  villages,  towns  blazed  like  summer  light- 
ning. In  August-when  fruits  ripen  and  com  is 

487 


ready  for  harvest-the  sky  was  unsmilingly  grey, 
the  rare  fine  days  were  oppressive  and  sultry, 

August  was  drawing  to  a  close.  The  leaves 
turned  yellow  in  the  orchards,  and  a  mournful 
purple  spread  from  their  stalks.  From  a  dis- 
tance it  looked  as  though  the  trees  were  gashed 
with  wounds  and  bleeding  to  death. 

Grigory  studied  with  interest  the  changes 
that  occurred  in  his  comrades.  Prokhor  Zykov 
returned  from  hospital  with  the  marks  of  a  horse- 
shoe on  his  cheek,  and  pain  and  bewilderment 
lurking  in  the  corners  of  his  lips.  His  calfish 
eyes  blinked  more  than  ever.  Yegor  Zharkov  lost 
no  opportunity  to  curse  and  swear,  was  even 
bawdier  than  before,  and  riled  against  every- 
thing under  the  sun.  Yemelyan  Groshev,  a  seri- 
ous and  efficient  Cossack  from  Grigory's  own 
village,  seemed  to  char;  his  face  turned  dark, 
and  he  laughed  awkwardly  and  morosely. 
Changes  were  to  be  observed  in  every  face; 
each  was  inwardly  nursing  and  rearing  the 
seeds  of  grief  implanted  by  the  war. 

The  regiment  was  withdrawn  from  the  line 
for  a  three-day  rest,  and  its  complement  was 
made  up  by  reinforcements  from  the  Don.  The 
Cossacks  of  Grigory's  squadron  were  about  to 
go  for  a  dip  in  a  neighbouring  lake,  when  a  con- 
siderable force  of  cavalry  rode  into  the  village 
from  the  station  some  three  versts  away.  By  the 

488 


time  the  men  had  reached  the  dam  of  the  lake 
the  force  was  riding  down  the  hill.  Prokhor  Zy- 
kov  was  pulling  off  his  shirt  when,  looking  up, 
he  stared  and  exclaimed: 

"They're  Cossacks,  Don  Cossacks!" 

Grigory  gazed  after  the  colimin  crawling  into 
the  estate  where  the  Fourth  Squadron  was  quar- 
tered. 

"Reserves,  most  likely." 

"Look  boys;  surely  that's  Stepan  Astakhov? 
There  in  the  third  rank  from  the  front,"  Gro- 
shev  exclaimed,  and  gave  a  short  grating  laugh. 

"And  there's  Anikushka." 

"Grisha!  Melekhov!  There's  your  brother. 
D'you  see  him?" 

Narrowing  his  eyes,  Grigory  stared,  trying  to 
recognize  the  horse  Pyotr  was  riding.  "Must 
have  bought  a  new  one!"  he  thought,  turning  his 
gaze  to  his  brother's  face.  Deeply  tanned,  with 
moustache  clipped  and  brows  bleeched  by  the 
summer  sun,  it  was  strangely  altered  since  their 
last  meeting. 

Grigory  went  to  meet  him,  taking  off  his  cap 
and  waving  mechanically.  After  him  poured  the 
half-dressed  Cossacks,  trampling  underfoot  the 
brittle  undergrowth  of  angelica  and  burdock. 

Led  by  an  elderly,  stocky  captain  with  a 
wooden  hardness  in  the  lines  of  his  authorita- 
tive clean-shaven  mouth,  the  detachment  swung 

489 


round  the  orchard  into  the  estate.  "A  sticker!" 
Grigory  thought,  as  he  smiled  at  his  brother  and 
at  the  same  time  ran  his  eye  over  the  captain's 
sturdy  figure  and  his  hook-nosed  mount, 
evidently  of  an  Eastern  strain. 

"Hullo,  Brother!"  he  shouted. 

"Glory  be!  We're  going  to  be  together. 
How're  things?" 

"All  right." 

"So  you're  still  alive?" 

"So  far." 

"Regards  from  the  family." 

"How  are  they  all?" 

"All  right." 

Pyotr  rested  his  palm  on  the  croup  of  his  stur- 
dy reddish  horse  and,  turning  his  whole  body  in 
the  saddle,  surveyed  Grigory  smilingly.  Then 
he  rode  on,  and  was  hidden  by  the  oncoming 
ranks  of  other  Cossacks,  familiar  and  unfa- 
miliar. 

"Hullo,  Melekhov!  Regards  from  the  village." 

"So  you're  joining  us?"  Grigory  grinned,  rec- 
ognizing Mikhail  Koshevoi  by  the  golden  slab 
of  his  forelock. 

"That's  right.  Like  chickens  after  corn." 

"Mind  you  don't  get  pecked  yourself." 

"We'll  see  about  that!" 

Yegor  Zharkov  came  from  the  lake  dressed 
only    in  his    shirt    and    hopping    on    one    leg 

490 


trying  to  thrust  the  other  into  his  sharovari  as 
he  ran. 

"Hey,  here's  Zharkov!"  rose  a  shout  from 
the  ranks. 

"Hullo,  stallion!  Have  they  had  to  hobble  you 
then?" 

"How's  my  mother?" 

"Still  alive.  She  sent  her  love,  but  we  wouldn't 
take  any  presents.  We  had  enough  to  carry  as 
it  was." 

Yegor  listened  with  an  unusually  serious  ex- 
pression to  the  reply,  and  then  sat  down  bare- 
bottomed  in  the  grass,  hiding  his  disappointed 
face  and  struggling  ineffectually  to  get  his 
trembling  leg  into  his  trousers. 

Half-dressed  Cossacks  stood  behind  the  blue- 
painted  fence;  on  the  other  side  the  reserve 
squadron  from  the  Don  flowed  along  the  chest- 
nut-lined road  into  the  yard. 

"That  you,  Alexander?" 

"Yes,  it's  me." 

"Andreyan!  Why,  you  lop-eared  devil,  don't 
you  know  me?" 

"Love  from  the  wife.  So  this  is  life  in  the  ar- 
my, eh!" 

"Christ  save  you." 

"Where's  Boris  Belov?" 

"What  squadron  was  he  in?" 

"The  Fourth,  I  think." 

491 


"Where  was  he  from?" 

"Vyeshenskaya  stanitsa,  Zaton." 

"What  do  you  want  him  for?"  a  third  voice 
broke  into  the  fragmentary  conversation. 

"I've  got  a  letter  for  him,  that's  what." 

"He  was  killed  a  few  days  back,  at  Raibrodi." 

"Is  that  so?" 

"Believe  me.  I  saw  it  with  my  own  eyes.  Bul- 
let in  the  chest,  just  under  his  left  tit." 

"Anyone  here  from  Chornaya  Rechka?" 

"No.  On  you  go." 

The  squadron  was  drawn  up  in  the  yard.  The 
other  Cossacks  returned  to  their  bathe  and  were 
joined  soon  after  by  the  new  arrivals.  Grigory 
dropped  down  at  his  brother's  side.  The  damp, 
crumbling  clay  of  the  dam  had  an  unpleasant 
raw  smell  about  it;  the  water  was  bright-green 
at  the  edges.  Grigory  sat  killing  the  lice 
in  the  folds  and  seams  of  his  shirt,  and  told  his 
brother: 

"Pyotr,  I'm  played  out.  I'm  like  a  man  who 
only  needs  one  more  blow  to  kill  him.  It's  as 
though  I'd  been  between  millstones;  they've 
crushed  me  and  spat  me  out."  His  voice  was 
cracked  and"  complaining,  and  a  dark  furrow 
(only  now,  with  a  feeling  of  anxiety,  did  Pyotr 
notice  it)  slanting  diagonally  across  his  fore- 
head, made  a  startling  impression  of  change  and 
alienation. 

492 


"Why,  what's  the  matter?"  Pyotr  asked  as  he 
pulled  off  his  shirt,  revealing  his  bare  white 
body  with  the  clean-cut  line  of  sunburn  around 
the  neck. 

"It's  like  this,"  Grigory  said  hurriedly,  and 
his  voice  grew  strong  in  its  bitterness.  "They've 
set  us  fighting  one  another,  worse  than  a  pack 
of  wolves.  Hatred  everywhere.  Sometimes  I 
think  to  myself  if  I  bit  a  man  he'd  get  the  ra- 
bies." 

"Have  you  had  to  .  .  .  kill  anyone?" 

"Yes,"  Grigory  almost  shouted,  screwing  up 
his  shirt  and  throwing  it  down  at  his  feet.  Then 
he  sat  pressing  his  throat  with  his  fingers,  as 
though  pushing  down  a  word  that  was  choking 
him,  and  turned  his  eyes  away, 

"Tell  me,"  Pyotr  ordered,  avoiding  his  broth- 
er's eyes. 

"My  conscience  is  killing  me.  I  sent  my  lance 
through  one  man  ...  in  hot  blood  ...  I  couldn't 
have  done  it  otherwise.  .  .  .  But  why  did  I  cut 
down  the  other?" 

"Well?" 

"It  isn't  'well'!  I  cut  down  a  man,  and  I'm 
sick  at  heart  because  of  him,  the  swine!  The 
bastard  comes  haunting  me  in  my  dreams.  Was 
I  to  blame?" 

"You're  not  used  to  it  yet;  you'll  get  over  it," 

493 


"Are  you  stopping  with  our  squadron?"  Gri- 
gory  asked  abruptly. 

"No,  we're  drafted  to  the  27th  Regiment." 

"I  thought  you  had  come  to  help  us  out." 

"Our  squadron's  going  to  be  tacked  on  to 
some  infantry  division  or  other.  We're  catching 
it  up.  But  we've  brought  you  some  replace- 
ments, a  batch  of  young  fellows." 

"Well,  let's  have  a  swim." 

Grigory  hastily  pulled  off  his  trousers  and 
went  to  the  edge  of  the  dam,  sunburnt  and  well- 
built  in  spite  of  his  stooped  shoulders;  he  was 
older  than  when  they  last  saw  each  other,  Pyotr 
thought.  Raising  his  hands,  he  dived  into  the 
water;  a  heavy  green  wave  closed  over  him  and 
billowed  away.  He  struck  out  towards  the  group 
of  Cossacks  larking  about  in  the  middle,  his 
hands  slapping  the  water  affectionately,  his 
shoulders  moving  lazily. 

Pyotr  was  slow  in  removing  from  his  neck  the 
cross  with  the  prayer  sewn  to  it.  He  thrust  the 
string  under  his  pile  of  clothes,  entered  the  wa- 
ter with  timorous  caution,  wetted  his  chest  and 
shoulders,  then  pressed  forward  with  a  groan 
and  swam  to  overtake  Grigory.  They  made  for 
the  opposite  bank,  which  was  sandy  and  cov- 
ered with  bushes.  The  movement  through  the  wa- 
ter cooled  and  soothed,  and  Grigory  spoke  re- 
strainedly  and  without  his  previous  passion. 

494 


"I've  been  so  fed  up  I've  let  the  lice  eat  me!" 
he  remarked.  "If  I  were  only  at  home  now!  I'd 
fly  there  if  I  had  wings.  Just  to  take  one  little 
peep!  How  are  they  all?" 

"Natalya  is  living  with  us." 

"How  are  Father  and  Mother?" 

"All  right.  But  Natalya's  still  waiting  for  you. 
She  still  believes  you'll  go  back  to  her." 

Grigory  snorted  and  spat  out  water  without 
answering.  Pyotr  turned  his  head  and  tried  to 
look  into  his  brother's  eyes. 

"You  might  send  her  a  word  in  your  letters. 
The  woman  lives  only  for  you." 

"What,  does  she  still  want  to  tie  up  the 
broken  ends?" 

"Well,  she  lives  on  hope.  .  .  .  She's  a  fine  little 
wo^man.  Strict  too.  She  won't  let  anybody  play 
about  with  her!" 

"She  ought  to  get  a  husband." 

"Strange  words  from  you!" 

"Nothing  strange  about  them.  That's  how  it 
ought  to  be." 

"Well,  it's  your  business.  I  shan't  inter- 
fere." 

"And  how's  Dunya?" 

"She's  a  woman.  Brother!  She's  grown  so 
much  this  year  that  you  wouldn't  know  her." 

"Is  that  so!"  Grigory  said,  surprised  and  a 
little  cheered. 

495 


"God's  truth!  She'll  be  getting  married  next, 
and  we  shan't  even  get  our  whiskers  into  the 
vodka.  Or  we  may  even  get  killed  off,  damn 
them!" 

"Nothing  simpler!" 

They  lay  side  by  side  on  the  sand,  basking  in 
the  mild  warmth  of  the  sun. 

Misha  Koshevoi  swam  past.  "Come  on,  Gri- 
sha,  into  the  water." 

"No,  I'm  resting." 

Burying  a  beetle  in  the  sand,  Grigory  asked: 
"Heard  anything  of  Aksinya?" 

"I  saw  her  in  the  village  just  before  war 
broke  out." 

"What  was  she  doing  there?" 

"She'd  come  to  get  some  things  of  hers  from 
her  husband." 

Grigory  coughed  and  buried  the  beetle  with 
a  sweep  of  his  hand. 

"Did  you  speak  to  her?" 

"Only  passed  the  time  of  day.  She  was  look- 
ing well,  and  cheerful.  She  seems  to  have  an 
easy  time  at  the  estate." 

"And  what  about  Stepan?" 

"He  gave  her  her  odds  and  ends  all  right. 
Behaved  decently  enough.  But  you  keep  your 
eyes  open!  I've  been  told  that  when  he  was 
drunk  he  swore  he'd  put  a  bullet  through  you 
in  the  first  battle.  He  can't  forgive  you." 

496 


"1  know." 

"I  got  myself  a  new  horse,"  Pyotr  changed 
the  conversation. 

"Sold  the  bullocks?" 

"For  a  hundred  and  eighty.  And  the  horse 
cost  a  hundred  and  fifty.  Not  a  bad  one,  either." 

"What's  the  grain  like?" 

"Good.  They  took  us  off  before  we  could  get 
it  in." 

The  talk  turned  to  domestic  matters,  and  the 
intensity  of  feeling  passed.  Grigory  drank  in 
Pyotr's  news  of  home.  For  a  brief  moment  he 
was  living  there  again,  just  an  ordinary  self- 
willed  lad. 

"Well,  let's  have  another  dip  and  get  dressed," 
Pyotr  suggested,  brushing  the  sand  off  his 
damp  belly.  His  back  and  arms  were  covered 
with  gooseflesh. 

They  returned  with  a  crowd  of  Cossacks  to 
the  yard.  At  the  orchard  fence  Stepan  Astakhov 
overtook  them.  He  was  combing  his  hair  back 
under  the  peak  of  his  cap  as  he  walked.  Draw- 
ing level  with  Grigory,  he  said: 

"Hullo,  friend!" 

"Hullo!"  Grigory  halted  and  turned  to  him 
with  a  touch  of  embarrassment  and  guilt  in  his 
face. 

"You  haven't  forgotten  me,  have  you?" 

"Almost." 

32—1933  497 


"But  I  remember  you!"  Stepan  smiled  derisive- 
ly and  passed  on,  slipping  his  arm  round  the 
shoulder  of  a  corporal  walking  ahead  of  them. 

After  sundown  a  telephone  message  came 
from  the  divisional  staff  for  Grigory's  regiment 
to  return  to  the  front.  The  squadrons  were  as- 
sembled within  fifteen  minutes,  and  rode  off 
singing  to  close  a  breach  made  in  the  line  by 
the  enemy  cavalry. 

As  they  said  good-bye  to  each  other  Pyotr 
thrust  a  folded  paper  into  his  brother's  hand. 

"What's  this?"  Grigory  asked. 

"I've  copied  down  a  prayer  for  you.  Take 
it " 

"Is  it  any  good?" 

"Don't  laugh,  Grigory!" 

"I'm  not  laughing." 

"Well,  good-bye.  Brother.  Don't  dash  away 
in  front  of  the  rest.  Death  has  a  fancy  for  the 
hot-blooded  ones.  Look  after  yourself,"  Pyotr 
shouted, 

"What's  the  prayer  for  then?" 

Pyotr  waved  his  hand. 

For  some  time  the  squadrons  rode  without  ob- 
serving any  precautions.  Then  the  sergeants 
gave  orders  for  the  utmost  possible  quiet,  and 
for  all  cigarettes  to  be  put  out.  Flares,  adorned 
with  tails  of  lilac  smoke,  soared  high  over  a  dis- 
tant wood. 


XI 


A  small  brown  Morocco  notebook.  The  cor- 
ners were  frayed  and  broken;  it  must  have  spent 
a  long  time  in  its  owner's  pocket.  The  pages 
were  covered  with  rather  elaborate  sloping 
handwriting.  , 

,  .  .  For  some  time  now  I  have  felt  this  need 
for  putting  pen  to  paper.  I  want  to  keep  a  sort 
of  "college  diary,"  First  of  all,  about  her.  In 
February  (I  don't  remember  the  date)  I  got  to 
know  her  through  a  neighbour  of  hers,  a  stu- 
dent called  Boyaryshkin.  I  ran  into  them  outside 
a  cinema.  When  Boyaryshkin  introduced  her,  he 
said:  "Liza  comes  from  the  Vyeshenskaya  sta- 
nitsa.  Be  nice  to  her,  Timofei.  She's  an  excellent 
girl."  I  remember  uttering  some  incoherent  re- 
mark and  taking  her  soft  sweaty  hand  in  mine. 
That  was  how  I  met  Yelizaveta  Mokhova.  I 
realized  at  once  that  she  had  been  spoiled.  Wom- 
en like  her  have  something  in  their  eyes  that 
tells  you  too  much.  The  impression  she  created 
on  me,  I  admit,  was  not  very  favourable.  It  must 
have  been  that  clammy  hand  of  hers.  I  have 
never  met  anyone  whose  hands  perspired  so 
much;  then  those  eyes,  very  beautiful  eyes  actu- 
ally, with  a  glorious  hazel  tint  in  them,  and  yet 
unpleasant. 

32*  499 


Vasya,  old  friend,  I  find  myself  consciously 
touching  up  my  style,  even  resorting  to  image- 
ry, for  when  this  "diary"  reaches  you  in  Semi- 
palatinsk  (I'm  thinking  of  sending  it  to  you 
after  this  affair  I  have  started  with  Yelizaveta 
Mokhova  is  over;  it  may  amuse  you)  I  want  you 
to  have  a  clear  idea  of  what  happened.  I  shall 
describe  things  in  chronological  order.  Well,  as 
I  have  said,  I  was  introduced  to  her  and  the 
three  of  us  went  in  to  see  some  sentimental  cin- 
ema rubbish.  Boyaryshkin  kept  quiet  (he  had 
toothache,  "molar-ache,"  as  he  called  it)  and  I 
found  it  difficult  to  make  conversation.  We 
turned  out  to  be  from  the  same  neighbourhood, 
that  is,  from  neighbouring  stanitsas,  but  after  we 
had  shared  a  few  reminiscences  about  the  beauty 
of  steppe  scenery  and  so  on,  our  talk  petered 
out.  I  preserved  an  unconstrained  silence,  so  to 
speak,  and  she  suffered  the  lack  of  conversation 
without  the  slightest  discomfort.  I  learned  from 
her  that  she  was  a  second-year  medical  student, 
that  she  came  of  a  merchant  family,  and  that 
she  was  fond  of  strong  tea  and  Asmolov's  snuff. 
Extremely  scanty  information,  as  you  can  imag- 
ine, for  getting  to  know  a  girl  with  hazel  eyes. 
When  we  said  good-bye  (we  saw  her  off  to  the 
tramstop),  she  asked  me  to  call  on  her.  I  made 
a  note  of  her  address.  I  think  I  shall  drop  in  on 
April  28th. 

500 


April  29th 

Called  on  her  today,  she  gave  me  tea  and 
halvah.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  there  is  something 
in  her.  Sharp  tongue,  moderately  clever,  but 
she's  got  hold  of  that  Artsibashev  do-as-you- 
please  theory,  you  can  smell  it  a  verst  off.  Came 
home  late.  Made  myself  cigarettes  and  thought 
of  things  completely  unconnected  with  her, 
mainly  money.  My  suit  is  in  an  appalling  state, 
but  I  have  no  "capital."  On  the  whole,  things 
are  rotten. 

May  1st 

Today  was  marked  by  an  event  of  some  im- 
portance. While  passing  the  time  quite  harmless- 
ly in  Sokolniki  Park,  we  got  involved  in  an  in- 
cident. The  police  and  a  detachment  of  Cossacks, 
about  twenty  of  them,  were  dispersing  a  work- 
ers' May  Day  meeting.  A  drunk  hit  one  of  the 
Cossack's  horses  with  a  stick  and  the  Cossack 
brought  his  whip  into  play.  (I  don't  know  why, 
but  some  people  persist  in  calling  a  whip  a 
switch.  It  has  its  own  glorious  title-why  not  use 
it?)  I  went  up  and  decided  to  intervene  impelled 
by  the  most  noble  feelings,  I  assure  you.  I  told 
the  Cossack  he  was  a  lout,  and  one  or  two  other 
things  besides.  He  was  going  to  take  a  swing  at 
me  with  his  whip,  but  I  told  him  pretty  firmly 
that  I  was  a  Cossack   of  Kamenskaya    stanitsa 

501 


myself  and  could  knock  hell  out  of  him  any  day 

of  the  week.  The  Cossack  happened  to  be  a 
good-natured  fellow,  young;  hadn't  been  in  the 
army  long  enough  to  get  sour.  He  replied  that 
he  was  from  the  stanitsa  of  Ust-Khoperskaya 
and  a  useful  man  with  his  fists.  We  parted  peace- 
fully. If  he  had  started  anything  against  me, 
there  would  have  been  a  fight;  and  something 
rather  worse  would  have  happened  to  my  own 
person.  My  intervention  is  to  be  explained  by 
the  fact  that  Liza  was  with  us  and  when  I  am 
in  her  presence  I  am  carried  away  by  a  purely 
childish  desire  to  do  something  heroic.  I  can 
actually  see  myself  turning  into  a  young  cock- 
erel and  feel  an  invisible  red  comb  sprouting 
under  my  cap. .  .  .  What  am  I  coming  to! 

May  3rd 

The  only  thing  to  do  in  my  present  mood  is 
get  drunk.  On  top  of  everything  I  have  no  mon- 
ey. My  trousers  are  hopelessly  split  just  where  it 
matters  most  (in  the  crutch,  to  put  it  bluntly), 
like  an  overripe  water-melon  down  on  the  Don, 
and  the  chances  of  my  darn  holding  out  are  re- 
mote indeed.  Might  as  well  try  to  sew  up  a  wa- 
ter-melon. Volodka  Strezhnev  has  been  round, 
Tomorrow  I  shall  attend  lectures. 


m 


May  7th 

Money  from  Father.  Rather  a  grumpy  letter, 
but  I  don't  feel  a  scrap  of  shame.  What  if  Dad 
knew  his  son's  moral  supports  are  rotting  like 
this.  .  .  .  Have  bought  a  suit.  My  new  tie  attracts 
the  attention  even  of  the  cabmen.  After  a  shave 
at  the  best  hairdresser's  in  town,  came  out  as 
fresh  as  a  draper's  shop  assistant.  At  the  corner 
of  the  boulevard  a  policeman  smiled  at  me.  The 
old  scoundrel!  But  what  is  past  is  past.  ...  I  saw 
Liza  quite  by  chance  through  the  window  of  a 
tram.  She  waved  her  glove  and  smiled.  How  do 
you  like  that! 

May  8th 

"To  love  all  ages  are  submissive.  ..."  I  can 
still  see  the  mouth  of  Tatyana's  husband  gaping 
up  at  me  like  a  gun  barrel.  From  my  seat  in  the 
gallery  I  had  an  irresistible  desire  to  spit  into 
it.  Whenever  I  think  of  that  phrase,  particularly 
the  "sub-miss-ive"  at  the  end,  my  jaw  aches 
to  yawn.  Probably  a  nervous  tick. 

But  the  point  is  that  I,  at  my  age,  am  in  love. 
Though  it  makes  my  hair  stand  on  end  to  write 
it.  . .  .  Called  on  Liza.  Began  with  a  very  long 
and  high-flown  introduction.  She  pretended  not 
to  understand  and  tried  to  change  the  subject. 
Is  it  toQ  early  yet?  Devil  take  it,  this  new  suit 

503 


has  mixed  everything  up.  When  I  look  at  my- 
self in  the  mirror  I  feel  I  am  irresistible.  Now  is 
the  time,  I  think!  Actually,  with  me  it  is 
straightforward  accounting  that  wins  the  day.  If 
I  don't  propose  now,  in  two  months'  time  it  will 
be  too  late;  my  trousers  will  be  worn  out  and 
I  won't  be  able  to  propose  anyhow.  As  I  write 
this  I  overflow  with  self-admiration.  What  a 
brilliant  combination  I  am  of  all  the  best  qual- 
ities of  the  best  people  of  our  time.  Here  you 
have  gentle  yet  fiery  passion  as  well  as  the 
"voice  of  reason  firm."  A  Russian  salad  of  all 
the  virtues,  not  to  mention  a  host  of  other  ad- 
mirable qualities. 

Well,  I  got  no  further  with  her  than  my  pre- 
liminary introduction.  We  were  interrupted  by 
her  landlady,  who  called  her  out  into  the  cor- 
ridor and  asked  her  for  a  loan.  She  refused  al- 
though she  had  the  money.  I  knew  that  for  a 
fact  and  I  pictured  her  face  as  she  refused  in 
that  truthful  voice  of  hers  and  with  such  sin- 
cerity in  those  hazel  eyes.  I  didn't  want  to  talk 
about  love  after  that. 

May  13th 

I  am  well  and  truly  in  love.  There  can  be  no 
doubt  about  it.  Everything  tells  me  so.  Tomor- 
row I  shall  propose.  So  far  I  have  not  yet 
worked  Qut  my  part. 

504 


May  14th 

The  thing  came  about  in  a  most  unexpected 
fashion.  It  was  raining,  a  nice  warm  shower. 
We  were  walking  along  the  Mokhovaya,  the 
wind  was  sweeping  rain  across  the  pavement. 
I  talked  and  she  was  quiet,  with  her  head  down 
as  if  she  were  thinking.  A  trickle  of  rain  ran 
off  the  brim  of  her  hat  on  to  her  cheek,  and  she 
was  beautiful.  I  quote  our  conversation: 

"Yelizaveta  Sergeyevna,  I  have  told  you 
what  I  feel,  now  it  is  up  to  you." 

"I  doubt  the  sincerity  of  your  feelings." 

I  shrugged  my  shoulders  in  an  idiotic  fash- 
ion and  said  icily  that  I  was  ready  to  take  an 
oath,  or  something  of  the  kind. 

She  said:  "Look  here,  you  are  talking  like  a 
character  out  of  Turgenev.  Can't  you  make  it 
simpler?" 

"Nothing  could  be  simpler.  I  love  you." 

"And  now  what?" 

"Now  it's  up  to  you." 

"You  want  me  to  say  I  love  you  too?" 

"I  want  you  to  say  something." 

"You  see,  Timofei  Ivanovich.  .  .  .  How  shall 
I  put  it?  I  like  you  just  a  little  bit. .  .  .  You're 
very  tall," 

"I'll  get  taller,"  I  promised. 

"But  we  know  each  other  iso  little,  we. . . ," 

605 


"In  ten  years'  time  we'll  know  each  other  a 
lot  better." 

She  rubbed  her  wet  cheeks  with  a  pink  hand 
and  said:  "Well,  all  right  then,  let's  live  to- 
gether. Time  will  show.  But  you  must  let  me 
break  off  my  former  attachment  first." 

"Who  is  he?"  I  inquired. 

"You  don't  know  him.  He's  a  doctor,  a  vene- 
rologist." 

"When  will  you  be  free?" 

"By  Friday,  I  hope." 

"Shall  we  be  living  together?  In  the  same 
flat,  I  mean?" 

"Yes,  I  think  it  would  be  more  convenient 
that  way.  You  will  move  into  my  flat." 

"Why?" 

"I  have  a  very  comfortable  room.  It  is  quite 
clean  and  the  landlady  is  a  nice  person." 

I  raised  no  objection.  At  the  corner  of  the 
Tverskaya  we  parted.  To  the  great  astonish- 
ment of  a  lady  who  happened  to  be  passing  we 
kissed. 

What  does  the  future  hold  in  store? 


May  22nd 

Living  a  life  of  honey.  Today  my  "honey" 
mood  was  clouded  by  Liza's  telling  me  I  must 
change  my  underwear.   Of  course,   my  under- 

506 


wear  is  in  a  disgusting  state.  But  the  money, 
the  money.  .  .  .  We  are  spending  mine  and  there 
isn't  much  left.  Shall  have  to  find  work. 

May  24th 

Today  I  decided  to  buy  some  new  underwear 
but  Liza  put  me  to  unexpected  expense.  She 
suddenly  had  an  irresistible  desire  to  dine  at  a 
good  restaurant  and  buy  herself  a  pair  of  silk 
stockings.  We  have  dined  and  bought,  but  I  am 
in  despair.  No  underwear  for  me! 

May  27th 

She's  sucking  me  dry.  I  am  physically  no 
more  than  a  bare  sunflower  stalk.  Not  a  wom- 
an but  a  smouldering  fire! 

June  2nd 

We  woke  up  today  at  nine.  My  accursed 
habit  of  wriggling  my  toes  led  to  the  following 
results.  She  pulled  back  the  bed-clothes  and 
subjected  my  foot  to  a  prolonged  exami- 
nation. Then  she  summed  up  her  observations 
thus: 

"You  have  a  foot  like  a  horse's  hoof.  Worse! 
And  that  hair  on  your  toes-ugh!"  She  jerked 
her  shoulders  in  a  kind  of  feverish  disgust, 
buried  her  head  under  the  bed-clothes  and 
turned  away  to  the  wall. 

607 


I  was  confused.  I  tucked  my  feet  out  of  sight 
and  touched  her  on  the  shoulder. 

"Liza!" 

"Leave  me  alone!" 

"Liza,  this  won't  do  at  all.  I  can't  change  the 
shape  of  my  feet,  they  weren't  made  to  order, 
you  know.  And  as  for  the  vegetation,  you  nev- 
er know  where  hair  will  grow  next.  It  grows 
everywhere.  You're  a  medical  student,  you 
ought  to  know  the  laws  of  nature." 

She  turned  over.  There  was  a  nasty  glint  in 
her  hazel  eyes. 

"For  goodness  sake  buy  some  deodorant 
powder.  Your  feet  stink  like  a  corpse." 

I  remarked  judiciously  that  her  hands  were 
always  clammy.  She  remained  silent  and,  to  put 
it  in  lofty  terms,  a  murky  cloud  descended  on 
my  soul.  .  .  , 

June  4th 

Today  we  went  for  a  boat  trip  down  the  river 
Moskva.  Recalled  the  Don  countryside.  Liza's 
conduct  is  unworthy  of  her.  She  keeps  making 
cutting  remarks  at  my  expense,  and  sometimes 
they  are  very  rude.  To  pay  her  back  in  her  own 
coin  would  mean  the  breaking-off  of  our  rela- 
tions, and  I  don't  want  that.  In  spite  of  every- 
thing, I  am  getting  more  and  more  attached  to 
her.  She  is  simply  spoiled.  But  I  fear  my  influ- 

508 


6nce  will  not  be  strong  enough  to  produce  any 
radical  change  in  her  character.  A  lovable, 
spoiled  little  girl.  A  little  girl,  moreover,  who 
has  seen  things  that  I  know  of  only  by  hear- 
say. On  the  way  home  she  dragged  me  into  a 
chemist's  and,  with  a  smile  on  her  face,  bought 
talcum  powder  and  some  other  rubbish.  "This'll 
keep  the  smell  down." 

I  made  a  gallant  bow  and  thanked  her. 

Absurd,  but  there  it  is. 

June  7th 

She  has  really  very  little  intellect,  but  she 
knows  all  the  other  things. 

Every  night  before  going  to  bed  I  wash  my 
feet  in  hot  water,  pour  eau-de-Cologne  over 
them  and  powder  them  with  some  other  dis- 
gusting stuff. 

June  16  th 

Every  day  she  becomes  2Tiore  and  more  intol- 
erable. Yesterday  she  had  an  attack  of  hyster- 
ics. It  is  very  hard  to  live  with  such  a  woman. 

June  18th 
We  have  absolutely  nothing  in  common!  We 
are  not  even  talking  the  same  language. 

This  morning  she  went  to  my  pocket  for 
money  before  going  to  the  baker's,  and  came 
across  this  little  book.  She  looked  at  it. 

509 


"What's  this  you  are  carrying  about?" 

I  felt  hot  all  over.  Suppose  she  glanced 
through  it?  I  was  surprised  to  hear  myself  an- 
swer in  such  a  natural  voice:  "Just  a  notebook 
for  calculations." 

She  pushed  it  back  into  my  pocket  quite  in- 
differently and  went  out.  I  must  be  more  care- 
ful. Direct  impressions  of  this  kind  are  only 
worth  while  when  the  other  person  knows  noth- 
ing about  them. 

They  shall  be  a  source  of  entertainment  to 
my  friend  Vasya. 

June  21st 

I  am  astounded  at  Liza.  She  is  twenty-one. 
When  did  she  have  time  to  get  so  immoral? 
What  kind  of  family  has  she  got,  who  had  a 
hand  in  her  development?  These  are  questions 
that  interest  me  intensely.  She  is  devilishly 
beautiful.  She  takes  pride  in  the  perfection  of 
her  figure.  It  is  just  a  cult  of  self-adoration- 
nothing  else  exists  for  her.  I  have  tried  several 
times  to  talk  to  her  seriously.  ...  It  would  be 
easier  to  convince  an  Old  Believer  that  God 
does  not  exist  than  to  re-educate  Liza. 

Life  together  has  become  impossible  and  ab- 
surd. Yet  I  hesitate  to  break  things  off.  I  must 
confess  that  in  spite  of  everything  I  like  her. 
She  has  grown  upon  me. 

5t0 


June  24th 

It  all  came  out  at  once.  We  had  a  heart-to- 
heart  talk  today  and  she  told  me  I  could  not 
satisfy  her  physically.  The  break  is  not  yet  of- 
ficial, in  a  few  days  probably. 

June  26th 

What  she  needs  is  a  stallion!  A  real  one! 

June  28th 

It  is  very  difficult  for  me  to  give  her  up.  She 
drags  me  down  like  mud.  Today  we  took  a  ride 
out  to  the  Vorobyovy  Hills.  She  sat  by  the  hotel 
window  and  the  sun  filtered  under  the  carved 
roof  on  to  her  curls.  Her  hair  is  the  colour  of 
pure  gold.  And  there's  a  piece  of  poetry  for 
you! 

July  4th 

I  have  left  my  work.  Liza  has  left  me.  Today 
I  drank  beer  with  Strezhnev.  Yesterday  we 
drank  vodka.  Liza  and  I  parted  as  educated 
people  should,  in  a  practical  manner.  No  non- 
sense. Today  I  saw  her  in  Dmitrov  Street 
with  a  young  man  in  jockey  boots.  She  acknowl- 
edged my  greeting  with  restraint.  It  is  about 
time  I  stopped  writing  these  notes-the  source 
has  run  dry. 

.5/7 


July  30th 

I  am  quite  unexpectedly  impelled  to  take  up 
the  pen  again.  War.  An  explosion  of  bestial  en- 
thusiasm. Every  top-hat  stinks  like  a  dead  dog 
of  patriotism.  The  other  fellows  are  in- 
dignant, but  I  am  gratified.  I  am  eaten  up  with 
longing  for  my  .  .  .  "paradise  lost."  Last  night 
I  had  a  quiet  little  dream  about  Liza.  She  has 
left  a  deep  mark  of  yearning.  I  should  be  glad 
of  some  diversion. 

August  1st 

I'm  fed  up  with  all  this  noise  and  fuss.  The 
old  feeling  of  longing  has  returned.  I  suck  at 
it  as  a  child  sucks  a  dummy. 

August  3rd 

A  way  out!  I  shall  go  to  the  war.  Foolish? 
Very.  Shameful? 

But  what  else  can  I  do?  Oh  for  a  taste  of 
something  different!  Yet  there  was  no  such  feel- 
ing of  satiety  two  years  ago.  Surely  I'm  not 
getting  old? 

August  7th 

I  am  writing  in  the  train.  We  have  just  left 
Voronezh.  Tomorrow  I  shall  be  home.  I  have 
made  up  my  mind,  I  shall  fight  for  "the  Faith, 
the  Tsar,  and  the  Fatherland." 

512 


August  12th 

What  a  send-off  they  gave  me.  The  ataman 
had  a  drink  or  two  and  made  an  impassioned 
speech.  Afterwards  I  told  him  in  a  whisper  that 
he  was  a  fool.  He  was  flabbergasted  and  so  of- 
fended his  cheeks  turned  green.  Then  he  hissed 
spitefully:  "And  you  call  yourself  educated!  You 
wouldn't  be  one  of  those  we  gave  the  lash  in 
1905,  would  you?"  I  replied  that,  to  my  regret, 
I  was  not  "one  of  those."  My  father  wept  and 
tried  to  kiss  me  with  a  dewdrop  dangling  from 
the  tip  of  his  nose.  Poor  dear  father!  He  ought 
to  be  in  my  shoes.  I  suggested  jokingly  that 
he  should  come  with  me,  and  he  exclaimed  in 
alarm:  "But  what  about  the  farm?"  Tomorrow 
I  leave  for  the  station. 

August  13th 

Here  and  there  unharvested  corn-fields.  Sleak 
marmots  on  the  hillocks.  They  bear  a  striking 
resemblance  to  the  picture-postcard  Germans 
we  see  impaled  on  Kozma  Kruchkov's  lance. 
Once  upon  a  time  when  I  was  a  student  of 
mathematics  and  other  exact  sciences,  little  did 
I  think  I  should  live  to  become  such  a  "jin- 
goist."  When  I  get  into  a  regiment  I  shall  have 
a  talk  with  the  Cossacks. 

33—1933  513 


August  22nd 

At  one  of  the  stations  along  the  line  I  saw 
the  first  group  of  prisoners.  A  fine-looking  Aus- 
trian officer  with  a  sportsman's  bearing  was  be- 
ing taken  under  guard  to  the  station  building. 
Two  young  ladies  strolling  along  the  platform 
smiled  at  him.  He  managed  a  very  neat  bow 
without  stopping  and  blew  them  a  kiss. 

Even  as  a  prisoner  he  was  clean-shaven,  gal- 
lant, his  brown  boots  glistened.  I  watched  him 
as  he  walked  away.  A  young  handsome  fellow, 
a  pleasant  friendly  face.  If  you  met  him  in  bat- 
tle, your  arm  would  not  lift  to  strike. 

August  24th 

Refugees,  refugees,  refugees.  ,  .  ,  Every  line 
is  crowded  with  trains  of  refugees  and  troops. 

The  first  hospital  train  has  just  passed.  When 
it  stopped  a  young  soldier  jumped  out.  His 
face  was  bandaged.  We  got  talking.  He  had 
been  wounded  with  grape-shot.  Awfully  glad 
he  probably  won't  have  to  do  any  more  ser- 
vice; his  eye  was  damaged.  He  was  actually 
laughing. 

August  27th 

I  am  in  my  regiment.  The  regimental  com- 
mander is  a  very  fine  old  man.  A  Cossack  from 
the  lower  Don.  One  can  feel  the  smell  of  blood 

514 


round  here.  There  are  rumours  that  we  shall  be 
in  the  front  line  the  day  after  tomorrow.  Mine 
is  the  Third  Troop  of  the  Third  Squadron- 
Cossacks  from  Konstantinovskaya  stanitsa.  A 
dull  lot.  Only  one  wag  and  songster. 

I  August  28th 

We  are  going  up.  Today  there  is  a  lot  of 
noise  out  there.  Sounds  like  thunder  rumbling 
in  the  distance.  I  even  sniffed  the  air  for  rain. 
But  the  sky  is  like  blue  satin. 

Yesterday  my  horse  went  lame,  grazed  its 
leg  on  the  wheel  of  a  field-kitchen.  Everything 
is  new  and  strange.  I  don't  know  what  to  start 
on,  what  to  write  about. 

August  30th 

Yesterday  there  was  no  time  to  write.  Now 
I  am  writing  in  the  saddle.  The  jolting  makes 
my  pencil  perform  some  monstrous  antics. 
There  are  three  of  us  riding  with  a  forage  train 
for  grass. 

Now  the  lads  are  tying  down  the  load  and  I 
am  lying  on  my  stomach  making  a  belated  re- 
cord of  what  happened  yesterday.  Yesterday 
Sergeant  Tolokonnikov  (he  addresses  me  con- 
temptuously as  "student."  "Hi  there,  student, 
can't  you  see  your  horse  has  got  a  shoe  coming 
off?")  sent  six  of  us  out  on  reconnaissance.  We 

33*  '  515 


drove  through  some  burnt-out  village  or  other. 
It  was  very  hot.  The  horses  were  sweating  and 
so  were  we.  Cossacks  should  not  have  to  wear 
serge  trousers  in  summer.  In  a  ditch  outside 
the  village  I  saw  my  first  corpse.  A  German, 
Lying  on  his  back  with  his  legs  in  the  ditch. 
One  arm  twisted  under  him,  a  rifle  magazine 
clasped  in  the  other.  No  rifle  anywhere  near. 
A  ghastly  sight.  A  cold  shiver  runs  down  my 
spine  as  I  think  of  it.  .  .  .  He  looked  as  if  he 
had  been  sitting  with  his  legs  in  the  ditch,  and 
had  then  lain  back  to  rest.  Grey  uniform  and 
helmet.  You  could  see  the  leather  lining.  I  was 
so  dazed  by  this  first  experience  that  I  don't 
remember  his  face.  Only  the  big  yellow  ants 
crawling  over  the  yellow  forehead  and  glassy 
half-closed  eyes.  The  Cossacks  crossed  them- 
selves as  they  rode  past.  I  looked  at  the  small 
spot  of  blood  on  the  right  side  of  his  uniform. 
The  bullet  had  hit  him  in  the  right  side  and 
gone  straight  through.  As  I  rode  past  I  noticed 
that  where  the  bullet  had  come  out,  the  stain  on 
the  uniform  and  the  clot  of  blood  on  the 
ground  were  much  bigger  and  the  uniform  was 
torn  raggedly. 

I  rode  past  shuddering.  So  that  is  how  it 
happens. 

The  senior  sergeant,  whose  nickname  is 
"Teaser,"  tried  to  restore  our  spirits  by  telling 

516 


us  a  dirty  story,  but  his  own  lips  were  trem- 
bling. 

About  half  a  verst  on  from  the  village  we 
came  to  a  gutted  factory,  just  brick  walls  black- 
ened with  smoke  at  the  top.  We  were  afraid  to 
go  straight  along  the  road  because  it  lay  past 
this  heap  of  ashes,  so  we  decided  to  go  round 
it.  As  soon  as  we  struck  off  the  road  somebody 
started  firing  at  us  from  the  factory.  The 
sound  of  that  first  shot,  ashamed  though  I  am 
to  admit  it,  nearly  toppled  me  out  of  my 
saddle.  I  grabbed  the  pommel  and  instinctively 
ducked  down  and  tugged  the  reins.  We  galloped 
back  to  the  village  past  the  ditch  where  the 
dead  German  lay,  and  did  not  recover  our  wits 
until  the  village  was  behind  us.  Then  we  turned 
round  and  dism.ounted.  We  left  two  men  with 
the  horses  and  the  other  four  of  us  made  our 
way  back  to  that  ditch.  We  crouched  down  to 
go  along  it.  From  a  distance  I  saw  the  legs  of 
the  dead  German  in  short  yellow  boots  dan- 
gling over  the  edge.  When  I  passed  him  I  held 
my  breath,  as  if  he  were  asleep  and  I  were  af- 
raid of  waking  him.  The  grass  under  him  was 
moist  and  green. 

We  lay  down  in  the  ditch  and  a  few  minutes 
later  nine  German  uhlans  rode  out  from  behind 
the  ruins  of  the  gutted  factory.  I  could  tell  they 
were  uhlans  by  their  uniforms.  One   of  them, 

517 


evidently  an  officer,  shouted  something  in  a 
gutteral  voice  and  the  whole  detachment  rode 
in  our  direction.  The  lads  are  calling  for  me  to 
come  and  help  them  load  the  grass.  I  must  go. 

August  30th 

I  want  to  finish  describing  how  I  shot  at  a 
man  for  the  first  time.  The  German  uhlans  rode 
down  on  us  and  I  can  still  see  those  lizard- 
green  uniforms,  the  glistening  bell-shapes  of 
their  helmets,  their  lances  with  the  flags  flutter- 
ing at  the  tips. 

They  were  mounted  on  dark  bay  horses.  For 
some  reason  I  let  my  glance  wander  to  the 
bank  of  the  ditch  and  noticed  a  small  emerald- 
green  beetle.  It  grew  larger  and  larger  before 
my  eyes  until  it  seemed  enormous.  Brushing 
aside  the  blades  of  grass  like  a  giant,  it  lum- 
bered towards  my  elbow  that  I  had  propped  on 
the  dry  crumbling  clay  of  the  bank;  it  climbed 
the  sleeve  of  my  tunic  and  crawled  quickly  on 
to  the  rifle,  then  from  the  rifle,  on  to  the  sling. 
I  was  still  watching  it  on  its  journey  when  I 
heard  the  Teaser's  voice  bawling:  "Fire,  what's 
the  matter  with  you?!" 

I  settled  my  elbow  more  firmly,  screwed  up 
my  left  eye  and  felt  my  heart  swelling  till  it 
was  as  huge  as  that  emerald  beetle.  My  sights 
trembled  against  a  background    of    grey-green 

5/6 


uniform.  I  pressed  the  trigger  and  heard  the 
moaning  flight  of  my  bullet.  Next  to  me 
the  Teaser  fired.  I  must  have  had  my 
sights  too  low  because  the  bullet  ricochet- 
ted  off  a  tussock  and  kicked  up  a  spurt  of  dust. 
It  was  the  first  shot  I  had  ever  fired  at  a  man. 
I  emptied  the  magazine  without  aiming.  And  it 
was  only  when  I  pulled  the  trigger  and  got  no 
response  that  I  had  a  look  at  the  Germans. 
They  were  galloping  back  in  the  same  good  or- 
der as  before,  with  the  officer  bringing  up  the 
rear.  There  were  nine  of  them  and  I  could  see 
the  dark  bay  croupe  of  the  officer's  horse  and 
the  metal   plate  on  the  top  of  his  uhlan's  helmet. 

September  2nd 

In  War  and  Peace  Tolstoi  has  a  passage  in 
which  he  speaks  of  the  line  between  opposing 
armies,  the  line  of  the  unknown  that  seems  to 
divide  the  living  from  the  dead.  The  squadron 
in  which  Nikolai  Rostov  is  serving  goes  into 
the  attack  and  Rostov  sees  that  line  in  his 
mind's  eye.  I  remember  that  passage  particu- 
larly vividly  today,  because  today  at  dawn  we 
attacked  a  unit  of  Germ.an  hussars.  Ever  since 
early  morning  their  troops,  with  excellent  ar- 
tillery support,  had  been  harrassing  our  infan- 
try. I  saw  some  of  our  men-the  241st  and  273rd 

5i9 


infantry  regiments,  I  think-fleeing  in  panic. 
They  had  been  literally  demoralized  after  be- 
ing thrown  into  an  attack  with  no  artillery  sup- 
port. Enemy  fire  had  accounted  for  nearly  a 
third  of  their  number  and  they  were  being  pur- 
sued by  German  hussars.  Then  our  regiment, 
which  had  been  standing  in  reserve  in  a  forest 
clearing,  was  thrown  into  action.  This  is  how 
I  remember  the  affair. 

We  left  the  village  of  Tishvichi  between  two 
and  three  in  the  morning.  Dawn  was  coming 
and  it  was  very  dark.  The  air  was  heavy  with 
the  smell  of  oats  and  pine  needles.  The 
regiment  proceeded  in  squadrons.  We  turned 
off  the  road  and  struck  across  the  fields.  The 
horses  snorted  as  they  sprinkled  the  heavy  dew 
off  the  oats  with  their  hoofs. 

It  was  chilly  even  in  a  greatcoat.  They  kept 
the  regiment  tracking  across  the  fields  for  a 
long  time  and  an  hour  passed  before  an  officer 
rode  up  and  handed  an  order  to  the  regimental 
commander.  Our  old  man  passed  on  the  order 
in  a  dissatisfied  tone  and  the  regiment  turned 
at  right  angles  into  the  woods.  Our  columns 
were  bunched  closely  on  the  narrow  path. 
Fighting  was  going  on  somewhere  to  the  left. 
Judging  by  the  noise  a  large  number  of  German 
batteries  were  in  action.  The  sound  of  the  gun- 
fire vibrated  in  the  air  and  it  felt  as  if  all  that 

520 


scented  pinewood  was  on  fire  above  us.  Until 
sunrise  we  could  only  listen.  A  cheer  went  up, 
a  limp,  ragged  sort  of  cheer,  and  then-stillness 
threaded  with  the  clean  hammering  of  machine- 
guns.  At  that  moment  my  head  was  in  a  whirl; 
the  only  thing  I  could  think  of,  and  that  pic- 
ture* was  utterly  and  painfully  clear,  were  the 
faces  of  our  infantry  as  they  advanced. 

In  my  mind's  eye  I  could  see  the  baggy  grey 
figures  in  their  flat  army  caps  and  clumsy  sol- 
dier's top-boots  pounding  over  the  autumn 
earth,  and  I  could  hear  the  sharp  hoarse 
chuckle  of  the  German  machine-guns  as  they 
set  to  work  transforming  those  living  sweating 
human  bodies  into  corpses.  The  two  regiments 
were  mown  down  and  fled,  abandoning  their 
arms.  Then  a  regiment  of  German  hussars 
charged  down  on  them.  We  came  out  on  their 
flank  at  a  distance  of  about  seven  hundred 
yards  or  less.  An  order  was  given.  We  formed 
up  instantly.  I  heard  a  single  cold  command. 
"Forward!"  It  seemed  to  hold  us  back  for  a 
moment  like  a  bit,  then  we  were  flying  ahead. 
My  horse's  ears  were  pressed  so  flat  against 
its  head  you  couldn't  have  prised  them  up  with 
your  fingers.  I  glanced  round-behind  me  were 
the  regimental  commander  and  two  officers. 
Yes,  this  was  it,  this  was  the  line  dividing  the 

521 


living  from  the  dead.   Here  it  was,  the  great 
moment  of  insanity! 

The  hussars  wavered  and  turned  back.  Be- 
fore my  eyes  our  squadron  commander  Cheme- 
tsov  cut  down  a  German  hussar.  I  saw  a  Cos- 
sack of  the  Sixth  Squadron  overtake  a  German 
and  hack  madly  at  his  horse's  croup.  Ribbons 
of  skin  streamed  from  the  sabre  as  it  rose  and 
fell.  It  was  inconceivable!  There  was  no  name 
for  it!  On  the  way  back  I  saw  Chernetsov's 
face,  intent  and  controlledly  cheerful-he  might 
have  been  sitting  at  the  card  table,  instead  of 
in  the  saddle,  having  just  murdered  a  man, 
Squadron-Commander  Chernetsov  will  go  far. 
A  capable  fellow! 

September  4th 

We  are  resting.  The  Fourth  Division  of  the 
Second  Army  Corps  is  being  brought  up  to  the 
front.  We  are  stationed  at  the  small  town  of 
Kobylino.  This  morning  units  of  the  11th  Cav- 
alry Division  and  the  Urals  Cossacks  went 
through  the  town  at  a  fast  pace.  Fighting  con- 
tinues in  the  west.  A  constant  rumble.  After 
dinner  I  went  to  the  field  hospital.  A  train  of 
wounded  had  just  arrived.  Stretcher-bearers 
were  unloading  a  big  wagon  and  laughing.  I 
went  up  to  them.  A  tall  ginger-haired  soldier 
had  just  climbed  down  with  the  help  of  an  or- 

522 


derly,  "What  do  you  think  of  that,  Cossack," 
he  said,  addressing  me.  "They've  given  me  a 
load  of  peas  in  the  behind.  It's  full  of  grape- 
shot."  The  orderly  asked  him  if  the  shell  had 
burst  behind  him.  "Behind  me  be  damned,  I 
was  advancing  behind-first  myself."  A  nurse 
came  out  of  one  of  the  cottages.  I  glanced  at 
her  and  suddenly  felt  so  weak  I  had  to  lean 
against  a  cart.  Her  resemblance  to  Liza  was  ex- 
traordinary. The  same  eyes,  the  same  oval  face, 
nose,  hair.  Even  her  voice  was  similar.  Or  was 
I  imagining  things?  Now,  I  suppose,  I  shall  see 
a  resemblance  to  her  in  every  woman  I  meet. 

September  5th 

The  horses  have  had  a  day's  feeding  in  the 
stalls  and  we  are  off  to  the  front  again.  Physi- 
cally I  am  a  wreck.  The  bugler  is  playing  the 
order  to  mount.  There's  a  man  I  should  love 
to  put  a  bullet  through! 

The  squadron  commander  had  sent  Grigory 
Melekhov  with  a  message  to  regimental  head- 
quarters. As  he  rode  through  the  district  where 
the  recent  fighting  had  taken  place  Grigory  no- 
ticed a  dead  Cossack  lying  at  the  side  of  the 
highway.  He  lay  with  his  fair  curly  head  close 
to  the  hoof -pitted  road.  Grigory  dismounted 
and,  holding  his  nose   (the  dead  man  already 


reeked  of  decay),  searched  the  body.  In  the 
trousers  pocket  he  found  this  notebook,  a  stub 
of  mdelible  pencil  and  a  purse.  He  removed 
the  cartridge  belt  and  glanced  at  the  pale,  moist 
face  that  was  already  beginning  to  decompose. 
The  temples  and  the  bridge  of  the  nose  were 
turning  black,  on  the  forehead  a  slantwise  fur- 
row fixed  in  mortal  concentration  was  grimed 
with  dust. 

Grigory  covered  the  face  with  a  cambric 
handkerchief  that  he  found  in  the  dead  man's 
pocket  and  rode  on  to  headquarters,  pausing 
now  and  then  to  glance  round.  He  handed  in 
the  notebook  to  the  headquarters  clerks,  who 
gathered  round  to  read  it  and  laugh  over  this 
other  man's  brief  life  and  its  earthly  desires. 

XII 

During  August  the  11th  Cavalry  Division 
took  town  after  town  by  storm,  and  by  the  end 
of  the  month  they  were  deployed  around  the 
town  of  Kamenka-Strumilovo.  Behind  them 
came  the  army;  infantry  units  massed  on  im- 
portant strategic  sectors,  staff  units  and  bag- 
gage trains  gathered  at  the  railway  junctions. 
The  front  stretched  from  the  Baltic  like  a 
death-dealing  whiplash.  At  staff  headquarters 
a    big    offensive  was  being    planned;    generals 

524 


pored  over  their  maps,  dispatch  riders  dashed 
to  and  fro  with  battle  orders,  hundreds  of 
thousands  of  soldiers  marched  to  their  death. 

The  reconnaissance  patrols  reported  that  con- 
siderable forces  of  enemy  cavalry  were  ap- 
proaching the  town.  In  the  wooids  along  the 
roads  skirmishes  were  fought  between  Cossack 
detachments  and  the  enemy  advance  guards. 

Ever  since  seeing  his  brother,  Grigory  Me- 
lekhov  had  sought  to  put  an  end  to  his  painful 
thoughts,  and  to  recover  his  former  tranquillity 
of  spirit.  But  it  was  no  use.  Among  the  last 
reinforcements  from  the  second  line  of  reserv- 
ists a  Cossack,  Alexei  Uryupin,  had  been  draft- 
ed into  Grigoiy's  troop.  Uryupin  was  tall,  rath- 
er round-shouldered  with  an  aggressive  lower 
jaw  and  drooping  Kalmyk  whiskers.  His  mer- 
ry, fearless  eyes  were  always  smiling,  and  he 
was  bald,  with  only  scanty  ruddy  hair  around 
the  edges  of  his  angular  scull.  On  the  very  first 
day  of  his  arrival  he  was  nicknamed  "Tufty." 

After  fighting  around  Brodi  the  regiment 
had  a  day's  respite.  Grigory  and  Uryupin  were 
quartered  in  the  same  hut.  They  soon  fell  into 
conversation. 

"You  know,  Melekhov,  you  must  be  moult- 
ing or  something." 

"What  do  you  mean-moulting?"  Grigory 
asked  with  a  frown. 

525 


"You're  all  limp,  as  though  you  were  ill," 
Uryupiii  explained. 

They  had  been  feeding  their  horses  and  they 
stood  smoking  with  their  backs  against  a  ricke- 
ty moss-grown  fence.  Hussars  were  riding  four 
abreast  down  the  road;  dead  bodies  were  ly- 
ing about  by  the  fences,  for  there  had  been 
fighting  in  the  streets  when  the  Austrians  with- 
drew; a  charred  smell  rose  from  the  ruins  of  a 
gutted  synagogue.  In  the  rich  colours  of  early 
evening  the  town  was  one  immense  picture  of 
destruction  and  repelling  emptiness. 

"I'm  all  right,"  Grigory  spat  out,  not  looking 
at  the  other. 

"You're  lying!  I've  got  eyes  to  see!" 

"Well,  and  what  can  you  see?" 

"You're  scared!  Is  it  death  you're  scared  of?" 

"You're  a  fool!"  Grigory  said  contemptuous- 
ly, staring  narrowly  at  his  finger-nails. 

"Tell  me,  have  you  killed  anyone?"  Uryupin 
went  on  with  his  probing. 

"Yes.  What  of  it?" 

"Does  it  weigh  on  your  mind?" 

"Weigh  on  my  mind?"  Grigory  smiled  bitter- 

ly. 

Uryupin   drew  his  sabre  from  its  scabbard. 
"Would  you  like  me  to  slash  your  head  off?" 
"And  then?" 
"I'll  kill  you  without  a  sigh  of  regret.  I  have 

526 


no  pity."  Uryupin's  eyes  were  smiling,  but  by 
his  voice  and  the  rapacious  quiver  of  his  nostrils 
Grigory  realized  that  he  meant  what  he  said. 

"You're  queer-you're  a  savage,"  said  Gri- 
gory, studying  Uryupin's   face  intently. 

"Bah,  your  heart's  made  of  water.  Do  you 
know  this  stroke?  Watch!"  Uryupin  selected  an 
old  birch-tree  in  the  hedge  and  went  straight 
towards  it,  measuring  the  distance  with  his 
eyes.  His  long,  sinewy  arms  with  their  unusu- 
ally broad  wrists  hung  motionless. 

"Watch!" 

He  slowly  raised  his  sabre,  and  suddenly 
swung  it  slantwise  with  terrible  force.  Complete- 
ly severed  four  feet  from  the  ground,  the 
birch  toppled  over,  its  branches  scraping  at  the 
window  and  clawing  the  walls  of  the  hut. 

"Did  you  see  that?  Learn  it.  There  was  an 
ataman  called  Baklanov,  ever  heard  of  him? 
The  blade  of  his  sabre  was  filled  with  quick 
silver.  It  was  heavy  to  lift,  but  he  could  cut 
a  horse  in  two  with  it.  Like  that!" 

It  took  Grigory  a  long  time  to  master  the 
difficult  technique  of  the  new  stroke.  "You're 
strong,  but  you're  a  fool  with  your  sabre.  This 
is  the  way!"  Uryupin  instructed  him,  wielding 
his  sabre  slantwise  with  terrific  force.  "Cut  a 
man  down  boldly!  Man  is  as  soft  as  dough."  A 
smile  came  into  his  eyes.  "Don't  think  about 

527 


the  why  and  wherefore.  You're  a  Cossack,  and 
it's  your  business  to  cut  down  without  asking 
questions.  To  kill  your  enemy  in  battle  is  a  ho- 
ly work.  For  every  man  you  kill  G'od  will  wipe 
out  one  of  your  sins,  just  as  he  does  for  killing 
a  serpent.  You  mustn't  kill  an  animal  unless 
it's  necessary,  but  destroy  man!  He's  a  heathen, 
unclean;  he  poisons  the  earth,  he  lives  like  a 
toadstool !" 

When  Grigory  raised  objections  he  only 
frowned  and  lapsed  into  an  obstinate  silence. 

Grigory  noticed  with  surprise  that  all  horses 
were  afraid  of  Uryupin.  When  he  went  near 
them  they  would  prick  up  their  ears  and  bunch 
together  as  though  an  animal  were  approach- 
ing, and  not  a  man.  On  one  occasion  the  squad- 
ron had  to  attack  on  foot  over  a  wooded  and 
swampy  district.  The  horses  were  led  aside  into 
a  dell.  Uryupin  was  among  those  assigned  to 
take  charge  of  the  horses,  but  he  flatly  refused. 

"Uryupin,  why  the  devil  don't  you  lead  away 
your  horses?"  the  troop  sergeant  barked  at  him. 

"They're  afraid  of  me.  God's  truth,  they  are!" 
he  replied  with  the  usual  twinkle  in  his  eyes. 

He  never  took  his  turn  at  minding  the  horses. 
He  was  kind  to  his  own  mount,  but  Grigory 
observed  that  whenever  he  went  up  to  it  a 
shiver  ran  down  the  animal's  back,  and  it 
fidgeted  uneasily. 

528 


"Tell  me,  why  are  the  horses  afraid  of  you?" 
Grigory  once  asked  him. 

"I  don't  know,"  he  replied  with  a  shrug  of  his 
shoulders.  "I'm  kind  enough  to  them." 

"They  know  a  drunken  man  and  are  afraid 
of  him,  but  you're  always  sober." 

"I've  a  hard  heart,  and  they  seem  to  feel  it." 

"You  have  a  wolf's  heart.  Or  maybe  it's  just 
a  stone  you've  got  and  not  a  heart  at  all." 

"Maybe!"  Uryupin  willingly  agreed. 

The  troop  was  dispatched  on  reconnaissance 
work.  The  previous  evening  a  Czech  deserter 
from  the  Austrian  army  had  informed  the  Rus- 
sian command  of  a  change  in  the  disposition 
of  the  enemy  forces  and  a  proposed  counter- 
attack, and  there  was  need  for  continual  obser- 
vation over  the  road  along  which  the  hostile 
regiments  must  pass. 

The  troop  officer  left  four  Cossacks  with  the 
sergeant  at  the  edge  of  a  wood,  and  rode  with 
the  others  towards  a  town  lying  beyond  the 
next  rise.  Grigory,  Uryupin,  Misha  Koshevoi 
and  another  Cossack  were  left  with  the  sergeant. 

The  sergeant  ordered  them  to  dismount  and 
told  Koshevoi  to  take  the  horses  behind  a  thick 
bunch  of  pine-trees  and  mind  them. 

The  Cossacks  lay  smoking  by  a  fallen  pine, 
while  the  sergeant  watched  the  country  through 
his  binoculars.  Half  an  hour  they  lay  there,  ex- 

34—1933  529 


changing  lazy  remarks.  From  somewhere  to  the 
right  came  the  incessant  roar  of  gunfire.  A  few 
paces  away  a  field  of  ungathered  rye,  its  ears 
emptied  of  grain,  was  waving  in  the  wind.  Gri- 
gory  crawled  into  the  rye,  selected  some  still 
full  ears,  husked  them,  and  chewed  the  grain. 

A  group  of  horsemen  rode  out  of  a  distant 
plantation  and  halted,  surveying  the  open 
country,  then  set  off  again  in  the  direction  of 
the  Cossacks. 

"They  must  be  Austrians,"  the  sergeant  ex- 
claimed under  his  "breath.  "We'll  let  them  get 
closer  and  send  them  a  volley.  Have  your  rifles 
ready,  boys,"  he  added  feverishly. 

The  riders  steadily  drew  closer.  They  were 
six  Hungarian  hussars,  in  handsome  tunics  or- 
namented with  white  braid  and  piping.  The 
leader,  on  a  big  black  horse,  held  his  carbine 
in  his  hands  and  was  quietly  laughing. 

"Fire!"  the  sergeant  ordered.  The  volley  went 
echoing  through  the  trees. 

"What's  up?"  Koshevoi's  startled  shout  came 
from  behind  the  pines.  "Whoa,  you  devil!  Keep 
still  there!"  His  voice  sounded  prosaically  loud. 
The  hussars  galloped  in  single  file  into  the 
grain.  One  of  them,  the  leader,  fired  into  the  air. 
The  last  hussar  dropped  behind,  clinging  to  his 
horse's  neck  and  holding  his  cap  on  with  his 
left  hand. 

S30 


Uryupin  was  the  first  to  leap  to  his  feet.  He 
sped  off,  stumbling  through  the  rye,  holding 
his  rifle  at  the  trail.  Some  hundred  yards  away 
he  found  a  fallen  horse  kicking  and  struggling, 
and  a  Hungarian  hussar  standing  close  by,  rub- 
bing his  knee,  which  he  had  hurt  in  the  fall. 
He  shouted  something  to  Uryupin  and  raised 
his  hands  in  token  of  surrender,  staring  after 
his  retreating  comrades. 

All  this  happened  so  quickly  that  Grigory 
hardly  had  time  to  take  in  what  was  occurring 
before  Uryupin  had  brought  back  his  prisoner. 

"Off  with  it!"  Uryupin  shouted  at  the 
Hungarian,  roughly  tearing  at  the  hussar's 
sword. 

The  prisoner  smiled  apprehensively  and 
fumbled  with  his  belt,  only  too  willing  to  hand 
over  his  sword.  But  his  hands  trembled,  and  he 
could  not  manage  to  unfasten  the  clasp.  Grigo- 
ry cautiously  assisted  him,  and  the  hussar,  a 
young,  fat-cheeked  boy  with  a  tiny  mole  in  the 
corner  of  his  shaven  upper  lip,  thanked  him 
with  a  smile  and  a  nod  of  the  head.  He  seemed 
glad  to  be  deprived  of  the  weapon  and,  fum- 
bling in  his  pocket,  pulled  out  a  leather  pouch 
and  muttered  something,  offering  the  Cossacks 
tobacco. 

"He's  treating  us!"  the  sergeant  smiled,  and 
felt  for  his  cigarette  papers. 

34*  531 


"Have  a  smoke  on  foreign  baccy,"  Silantyev 
chuckled. 

The  Cossacks  rolled  cigarettes  from  the  hus- 
sar's tobacco  and  smoked.  The  strong,  black  to- 
bacco quickly  went  to  their  heads. 

"Where's  his  rifle?"  the  sergeant  asked, 
drawing  greedily  at  his  cigarette. 

"Here  it  is,"  Uryupin  showed  the  stitched 
yellow  sling  from  behind  his  back. 

"He'd  better  be  taken  to  the  squadron.  They'll 
want  to  hear  what  he's  got  to  say." 

"Who'll  take  him,  boys?"  the  sergeant  asked, 
passing  his  eyes  over  his  men. 

"I  will,"  Uryupin  replied  quickly. 

"All  right,  off  with  you!" 

The  prisoner  evidently  realized  what  was  to 
happen  to  him,  for  he  smiled  wryly,  turned  out 
his  pockets,  and  offered  the  Cossacks  some  soft 
broken  chocolate. 

"Rusin  ich  .  .  .  Rusin  .  .  .  nein  Austrische  .  . ." 
he  stammered,  gesticulating  absurdly  and  hold- 
ing out  the  chocolate. 

"Any  weapons?"  the  sergeant  asked.  "Don't 
rattle  away  like  that,  we  can't  understand  you. 
Got  a  revolver?  A  bang-bang?"  The  sergeant 
pulled  an  imaginary  trigger.  The  prisoner  shook 
his  head  furiously. 

He  willingly  allowed  himself  to  be  searched, 
his  fat  cheeks  quivering.  Blood  was  streaming 

5S2 


from  his  torn  knee.  Talking  incessantly,  he 
dabbed  it  with  his  handkerchief.  He  had  left  his 
cap  by  his  horse,  and  he  asked  permission  to 
go  and  fetch  it  and  his  blanket  and  notebook, 
in  which  were  photographs  of  his  family.  The 
sergeant  tried  hard  to  understand  what  he 
wanted  but  at  last  waved  his  hand  in  despair: 

"Off  with  him!" 

Uryupin  took  his  horse  and  mounted  it.  Ad- 
justing his  rifle  across  his  back,  he  motioned  to 
the  prisoner.  Encouraged  by  his  smile,  the 
Hungarian  also  smiled  and  set  off  at  the  horse's 
side.  With  an  attempt  at  familiarity  he  patted 
Uryupin's  knee,  but  the  Cossack  harshly  flung 
off  his  hand  and  pulled  on  the  reins. 

"Get  along.  None  of  your  tricks!" 

The  prisoner  guiltily  drew  away  from  the 
horse  and  strode  along  with  a  serious  face,  fre- 
quently looking  back  at  the  other  Cossacks. 
His  fair  hair  stuck  up  gaily  on  the  crown  of  his 
head.  So  he  remained  in  Grigory's  memory:  his 
tunic  flung  over  his  shoulders,  his  flaxen  tuft 
of  hair,  and  his  confident,  debonair  walk. 

"Melekhov,  go  and  unsaddle  his  horse!"  the 
sergeant  ordered,  regretfully  spitting  out  the 
end  of  his  cigarette,  which  he  had  smoked  till 
it  burned  his  fingers.  Grigory  went  to  the  fall- 
en animal,  removed  the  saddle,  and  then  for 
some  undefined  reason  picked  up  the   cap  ly- 

533 


ing  close  by.  He  smelled  the  lining  and  caught 
the  scent  of  cheap  soap  and  sweat.  He  carried 
the  horse's  equipment  back  to  the  trees,  holding 
the  hussar's  cap  carefully  in  his  left  hand. 
Squatting  on  their  haunches,  the  Cossacks  rum- 
maged in  the  saddle-bags  and  examined  the  un- 
familiar design  of  the  saddle. 

"That  tobacco  he  had  was  good;  we  should 
have  asked  him  for  some  more,"  the  sergeant 
sighed  at  the  memory  and  swallowed  down  his 
spittle. 

Not  many  minutes  had  passed  when  a  horse's 
head  appeared  through  the  pines,  and  Uryupin 
rode  up. 

"Why,  where's  the  Austrian?  You  haven't  let 
him  go?"  the  sergeant  exclaimed,  jumping  up 
in  alarm.  Uryupin  rode  up  waving  his  whip,  dis- 
mounted and  stretched  his  shoulders. 

"What  have  you  done  with  the  Austrian?" 
the  sergeant  asked  again,  going  up  to  him. 

"He  tried  to  run  away,"  Uryupin  snarled. 

"And  so  you  let  him?" 

"We  came  to  an  open  glade,  and  he.  ...  So 
I  cut  him  down." 

"You're  a  liar!"  Grigory  shouted.  "You 
killed  him  for  nothing." 

"What  are  you  shouting  about?  What's  it  to 
do  with  you?"  Uryupin  fixed  icy  eyes  on  Gri- 
gory's  face. 

534 


"What?"  Grigory  was  slowly  rising,  his  hand 
groping  along  the  ground. 

"Don't  poke  your  nose  in  where  it  isn't 
wanted!  Understand?"  the  other  replied  stern- 
ly. Grigory  snatched  up  his  rifle  and  threw  it 
to  his  shoulder.  His  finger  quivered  as  it  felt 
for  the  trigger,  and  his  ashen  face  worked  an- 
grily. 

"Now  then!"  the  sergeant  exclaimed  threat- 
eningly, running  to  him.  He  struck  the  rifle  be- 
fore it  fired  and  the  bullet  cut  a  branch  from  a 
tree  and  went  whistling  away. 

"What's  going  on?"  Koshevoi   gasped. 

Silantyev's  jaw  dropped  and  he  sat  still  with 
his  mouth  open. 

The  sergeant  pushed  Grigory  in  the  chest  and 
tore  the  rifle  out  of  his  hands.  Uryupin  stood 
without  changing  his  position,  his  feet  planted 
apart,  his  left  hand  on  his  belt. 

"Fire  again!" 

"I'll  kill  you!"  Grigory  rushed  towards  him. 

"Here,  what's  all  this  about?  Do  you  want 
to  be  court-martialled  and  shot?  Put  your  arms 
down!"  the  sergeant  shouted. 

Thrusting  Grigory  back,  he  placed  himself 
with  arms  outstretched  between  the  two  men. 

"You  lie,  you  won't  kill  me!"  Uryupin  smiled. 

As  they  were  riding  back  in  the  dusk  Gri- 
gory was  the   first  to  notice  the  body  of  the 


hussar  lying  in  the  path.  He  rode  up  in  front 
of  the  others,  and  reining  in  his  frightened 
horse,  stared  down.  The  man  lay  with  arms 
flung  out  over  the  velvety  moss,  his  face  down- 
ward, his  palms,  yellow  like  autumn  leaves, 
turned  upward  and  open.  A  terrible  blow  from 
behind  had  cloven  him  in  two  from  the  shoul- 
der to  the  belt. 

"Cut  him  in  two  .  .  ."  the  sergeant  muttered 
as  he  rode  past  glancing  in  alarm  at  the  dead 
man's  flaxen  tuft  of  hair  sticking  up  lop-sidedly 
from  the  twisted  head. 

The  Cossacks  rode  past  the  body  and  on  to 
the  squadron  headquarters  in  silence.  The  eve- 
ning shadows  deepened.  A  breeze  was  driving 
up  a  black,  feathery  cloud  from  the  west.  From 
a  swamp  near  by  came  the  stagnant  scent  of 
marshgrass,  of  rusty  dampness  and  rot.  A  bit- 
tern boomed.  The  drowsy  silence  was  broken 
by  the  jingle  of  the  horses'  equipment,  and  the 
occasional  clank  of  sabre  on  stirrup,  or  the 
scrunch  of  pine  cones  under  the  horses'  hoofs. 
Through  the  glade  the  dark  ruddy  gleam  of 
the  departed  sun  streamed  over  the  pine  trunks. 
Uryupin  smoked  incessantly,  and  the  fleeting 
spark  of  his  cigarette  lit  up  his  thick  fingers 
with  their  blackened  nails  firmly  gripping  the 
cigarette. 

5^6 


The  cloud  floated  over  the  forest,  emphasiz- 
ing and  deepening  the  fading,  inexpressibly 
mournful  hues  of  the  evening  shadows  on  the 
ground. 

XIII 

The  following  morning  an  assault  was  begun 
on  the  town.  Flanked  by  cavalry  and  with  cav- 
alry units  in  reserve,  the  infantry  was  to  have 
advanced  from  the  forest  at  dawn.  But  some- 
where, someone  blundered;  the  two  infantry  reg- 
iments did  not  arrive  in  time;  the  211th  Rifle 
Regiment  was  ordered  to  cross  over  to  the  left 
flank,  and  during  the  encircling  movement  in- 
itiated by  another  regiment  it  was  raked  with 
fire  from  its  own  batteries.  The  hopeless  con- 
fusion upset  the  plans,  and  the  attack  threat- 
ened to  end  in  failure,  if  not  disaster.  While  the 
infantry  was  thus  being  shuffled  about  and  the 
artillery  hauled  its  guns  out  of  a  bog  into 
which  it  had  been  sent  on  someone's  instruc- 
tions, the  order  came  for  the  Eleventh  Caval- 
ry Division  to  advance.  The  wooded  and  marshy 
land  in  which  they  had  been  held  in  readiness 
did  not  permit  of  an  extended  frontal  attack, 
and  in  some  cases  the  Cossacks  had  to  advance 
in  troops.  The  Fourth  and  Fifth  squadrons  of  the 
Twelfth  Regiment  were  held  in  reserve  in  the 
forest,  and  within  a  few  minutes  of  the  general 

597 


advance  the  roaring,  rending  sound  of  the  battle 
reached  their  ears. 

There  was  a  long  quivering  cheer.  Now  and 
then  a  Cossack  spoke: 

"That's  ours." 

"They've  started." 

"What  a  row  that  machine-gun's  making." 

"Giving  our  chaps  what  for," 

"They're  not  cheering  now,  are  they?" 

"Not  there  yet," 

"We'll  be  at  it  in  a  minute." 

The  two  squadrons  were  drawn  up  in  a 
glade.  The  stout  pine  trunks  hemmed  them  in 
and  prevented  them  from  following  the  course 
of  the  battle. 

A  company  of  infantry  went  by  almost  at  a 
trot.  A  brisk,  smart-looking  N.C.O.  dropped 
back  to  the  rear  ranks  and  shouted  hoarsely: 

"Order  in  the  ranks!" 

The  company  tramped  past  with  their  equip- 
ment jangling  and  disappeared  into  an  alder 
thicket. 

Far  away  now,  faintly  through  the  trees  came 
that  quivering  cheer,  suddenly  breaking  off.  A 
deep  silence  fell. 

"They've  got  there  now." 

"Aye,  now  they're  at  it  .  .  .  killing  each 
other." 

§38 


The  Cossacks  strained  their  ears,  but  could 
hear  nothing  more;  on  the  right  flank  the  Aus- 
trian artillery  thundered  away  at  the  attacking 
forces;  the  roar  was  interspersed  with  the  rattle 
of  machine-guns. 

Grigory  glanced  around  his  troop.  The  Cos- 
sacks were  fidgeting  nervously,  and  the  horses 
were  restive  as  though  troubled  by  gadflies. 
Uryupin  had  hung  his  cap  on  the  saddle-bow 
and  was  wiping  his  bald  head;  at  Grigory' s 
side  Misha  Koshevoi  puffed  fiercely  at  his  home- 
grown tobacco.  All  the  objects  around  were 
distinct  and  exaggeratedly  real,  as  they  appear 
after  a  night  of  wakefulness. 

The  squadrons  were  held  in  reserve  for  three 
hours. 

The  firing  now  died,  now  rose  to  a  still  high- 
er pitch.  An  aeroplane  roared  overhead.  After 
circling  a  few  times  at  a  great  height,  it  flew 
eastward,  gaining  altitude.  Milky  puffs  of  burst- 
ing shells  dotted  the  blue  as  anti-aircraft  guns 
opened  fire. 

All  stocks  of  tobacco  had  been  exhausted 
and  the  men  were  pining  in  expectation,  when 
just  before  noon  an  orderly  galloped  up  with 
instructions.  The  commander  of  the  Fourth 
Squadron  immediately  led  his  men  off  to  one 
side.  To  Grigory  it  seemed  that  they  were  re- 
treating rather  than  advancing.  His  own  squad- 

539 


ron  rode  for  some  twenty  minutes  through  the 
forest,  the  sound  of  the  battle  drawing  nearer 
and  nearer.  Not  far  behind  them  a  battery  was 
firing  rapidly;  the  shells  tore  through  the  resist- 
ing air  with  a  shrieking  roar.  The  narrow  for- 
est paths  broke  up  the  squadron's  formation, 
and  they  emerged  into  the  open  in  disorder. 
About  half  a  verst  away  Hungarian  hussars  were 
sabring  the  crew  of  a  Russian  battery. 

"Squadron,   form!"  the   commander  shouted. 

The  Cossacks  had  not  completely  carried  out 
the  order  when  the  further  command  came: 

"Squadron,  draw  sabres;  into  the  attack,  for- 
ward!" 

A  blue  lightening  flash  of  blades.  From  a 
swift  trot  the  Cossacks  broke  into  a  gallop. 

Six  Hungarian  hussars  were  busily  occupied 
with  the  horses  of  the  field-gun  on  the  extreme 
right  of  the  battery.  One  was  dragging  at  the 
bits  of  the  excited  artillery  horses,  another  was 
beating  them  with  the  flat  of  his  sword,  while 
the  others  were  tugging  and  pulling  at  the 
spokes  of  the  carriage  wheels.  An  officer  on  a 
dock-tailed  chocolate  mare  was  giving  orders. 
At  the  sight  of  the  Cossacks  the  hussars  leapt 
to  their  horses. 

"Closer,  closer,"  Grigory  counted  to  the 
rhythm  of  his  galloping  horse.  As  he  galloped, 
one  foot  momentarily  lost  its  stirrup,  and  feeling 

5^ 


himself  insecure  in  his  saddle,  with  inward 
alarm  he  bent  over  and  fished  with  his  toe  for 
the  dangling  iron.  When  he  had  recovered  his 
foothold  he  looked  up  and  saw  the  six  horses 
of  the  field-gun  in  front  of  him.  The  outrider 
on  the  foremost  in  a  blood-  and  brain-spattered 
shirt,  was  lying  over  the  animal's  neck,  embrac- 
ing it.  Grigory's  horse  brought  its  hoof  down 
with  a  sickening  scrunch  on  the  body  of  the 
dead  gunner.  Two  more  were  lying  by  an  over- 
turned case  of  shells.  A  fourth  was  stretched 
face  downward  over  the  gun-carriage.  Silantyev 
was  just  in  front  of  Grigory.  The  Hungarian  of- 
ficer fired  at  almost  point-blank  range  and  the 
Cossack  fell,  his  hands  clutching  and  embrac- 
ing the  air.  Grigory  pulled  on  his  reins  and 
tried  to  approach  the  officer  from  the  left,  the 
better  to  use  his  sabre;  but  the  officer  saw 
through  his  manoeuvre  and  fired  under  his  arm 
at  him.  Having  discharged  the  contents  of  his 
revolver,  he  drew  his  sword.  He  parried  three 
smashing  blows  with  the  skill  of  a  trained  fenc- 
er. Grigory  gritted  his  teeth  and  lunged  at  him 
yet  a  fourth  time,  standing  in  his  stirrups.  Their 
horses  were  now  galloping  almost  side  by  side, 
and  he  noticed  the  ashy  clean-shaven  cheek  of 
the  Hungarian  and  the  regimental  number  sewn 
on  his  collar.  With  a  feint  he  diverted  the  of- 
ficer's attention,  and  changing  the  direction  of 

541 


his  stroke,  thrust  the  point  of  his  sabre  between 
the  Hungarian's  shoulder-blades.  He  aimed  a 
second  blow  at  the  neck,  just  at  the  top  of  the 
spine.  The  officer  dropped  his  sword  and  reins 
from  his  hands,  and  arched  his  back  as  if  he 
had  been  bitten,  then  toppled  over  his  saddle- 
bow. Feeling  a  terrible  relief,  Grigory  lashed 
at  his  head,  and  saw  the  sabre  smash  into  the 
bone  above  the  ear. 

A  terrible  blow  on  the  head  from  behind  tore 
consciousness  away  from  Grigory.  He  felt  a 
burning,  salty  taste  of  blood  in  his  mouth,  and 
realized  that  he  was  falling;  from  one  side  the 
stubbled  earth  came  whirling  and  flying  up  at 
him.  The  heavy  crash  of  his  body  against  the 
ground  brought  him  momentarily  back  to  real- 
ity. He  opened  his  eyes;  blood  poured  into 
them.  A  trample  past  his  ears,  and  the  heavy 
breathing  of  horses.  For  the  last  time  he  opened 
his  eyes  and  saw  the  pink  dilated  nostrils  of  a 
horse,  and  someone's  foot  in  a  stirrup.  "The 
end!"  the  comforting  thought  crawled  through 
his  mind  like  a  snake.  A  roar,  and  then  black 
emptiness. 

XIV 

In  the  middle  of  August  Yevgeny  Listnitsky 
decided  to  apply  for  a  transfer  from  the  Ata- 
man's Lifeauard  Regiment  to  one  of  the  Cos- 

542 


sack  regular  army  regiments.  He  made  his  for- 
mal application,  and  within  three  weeks  re- 
ceived the  appointment  he  desired.  Before  leav- 
ing St.  Petersburg  he  wrote  to  his  father: 

Father,  I  have  applied  tor  a  transfer  from 
the  Ataman's  Regiment  to  the  regular  army.  I 
received  my  appointment  today,  and  am  leav- 
ing for  the  front  to  report  to  the  commander 
of  the  Second  Corps.  You  will  probably  be  sur- 
prised at  my  decision,  hut  I  want  to  explain 
my  reasons.  I  am  sick  of  my  surroundings.  Pa- 
rades, escorts,  sentry  duty-all  this  palace  ser- 
vice sets  my  teeth  on  edge.  I  am  fed  up  with 
it.  I  want  live  work  and-if  you  wish-heroic 
deeds.  I  suppose  it's  my  Listnitsky  blood  that  is 
beginning  to  tell,  the  honourable  blood  of  those 
who  ever  since  the  War  of  1812  have  added 
laurels  to  the  glory  of  Russian  arms.  I  am  leav- 
ing for  the  front.  Please  give  me  your  blessing. 

Last  week  I  saw  the  Emperor  before  he  left 
for  headquarters.  I  worship  the  man.  I  was 
standing  guard  inside  the  palace,  he  smiled  as 
he  passed  me  and  said  in  English  to  Rodzyanko, 
who  was  with  him:  'My  glorious  Guard.  I'll 
beat  Wilhelm's  hand  with  it'  I  worship  him 
like  a  schoolgirl.  I  am  not  ashamed  to  confess 
it,  although  I  am  over  twenty-eight  now.  I  am 
terribly  upset  by  the  palace  gossip,  besmirch- 

543 


ing  the  Emperor's  glorious  name.  I  don't  believe 
it,  I  can't  believe  it.  The  other  day  I  nearly 
shot  Captain  Gromov  for  uttering  disrespectful 
words  about  Her  Imperial  Majesty  in  my  pres- 
ence. It  was  vile,  and  I  told  him  that  only 
people  who  had  the  blood  of  serfs  flowing  in 
their  veins  could  stoop  to  such  filthy  slander. 
The  incident  took  place  before  several  other 
officers.  I  was  beside  myself,  I  drew  my  revolv- 
er and  was  about  to  waste  a  bullet  on  the  cad, 
but  my  comrades  disarmed  me.  My  life  be- 
comes more  miserable  with  each  day  spent  in 
this  cesspool.  In  the  guards'  regiments- among 
the  officers,  in  particular-there  is  no  genuine 
patriotism,  and-one  is  terrified  to  utter  it- 
there  is  even  no  love  for  the  dynasty.  This  isn't 
the  nobility,  it's  the  rabble.  This  is  really  the 
explanation  of  my  break  with  the  regiment.  I 
cannot  associate  with  people  I  don't  respect. 

Well,  that's  about  all.  Please  forgive  my  in- 
coherence, I  am  in  a  hurry,  I  must  pack  my 
things  and  leave.  Keep  well,  Papa.  I  shall  write 
you  a  long  letter  from  the  front. 

Your  Yevgeny. 

The  train  for  Warsaw  left  Petrograd*  at  8 
p.m.  Listnitsky  took  a  drozhki  and  drove  to  the 

*  St.    Petersburg    was    renamed    Petrograd    in    1914. 
544 


station.    Behind  him  lay  Petrograd  in  a  dove 
blue  twinkle  of  lights. 

The  station  was  noisy  and  crowded  with 
troops.  The  porter  brought  in  Listnitsky's  suit- 
case and,  on  receiving  a  few  coins,  wished  the 
young  gentleman  a  good  journey.  Listnitsky 
removed  his  swordbelt  and  coat,  and  spread  a 
flowery  silk  Caucasian  eiderdown  on  the  seat. 
By  the  window  sat  a  priest  with  the  lean  face 
of  an  ascetic,  his  provisions  from  home  laid  out 
on  a  small  table.  Brushing  the  crumbs  from  his 
hemp-like  beard,  he  offered  some  curd-cake  to 
a  slim  dark  girl  in  school  uniform  sitting  in  the 
seat  opposite  him. 

"Try  something,  my  dear." 

"No,  thank  you." 

"Now  don't  be  shy,  a  girl  with  your  com- 
plexion needs  plenty  to  eat." 

"No,  thank  you." 

"Try  some  of  this  curd-cake  then.  Perhaps 
you  will   take  something,    sir?" 

Listnitsky  glanced  down. 

"Are  you  addressing  me?" 

"Yes,  indeed."  The  priest's  sombre  eyes  stared 
piercingly  and  only  the  thin  lips  smiled  un- 
der his  thin  drooping  moustache. 

"No,  thank  you.  I  don't  feel  like  food  now." 

"You  are  making  a  mistake.  It  is  no  sin  to 
eat.  Are  you  in  the  army?" 

35—1933  545 


"Yes." 

"May  the  Lord  help  you." 

As  Yevgeny  dozed  off  he  heard  the  priest's 
fruity  voice  as  though  coming  from  a  distance, 
and  it  seemed  to  him  that  it  was  the  disloyal 
Captain  Gromov  speaking: 

"It's  a  miserable  income  my  family  gets,  you 
know.  So  I'm  off  as  a  chaplain  to  the  forces. 
The  Russian  people  can't  fight  without  faith. 
And  you  know,  from  year  to  year  the  faith  in- 
creases. Of  course  there  are  some  who  fall 
away,  but  they  are  among  the  intelligentsia, 
the  peasant  holds  fast  to  God." 

The  priest's  bass  voice  failed  to  penetrate 
further  into  Yevgeny's  consciousness.  After  two 
wakeful  nights  a  refreshing  sleep  came  to  him. 
He  awoke  when  the  train  was  a  good  forty 
versts  outside  Petrograd.  The  wheels  clattered 
rhythmically,  the  carriage  swayed  and  rocked, 
in  a  neighbouring  compartment  someone  was 
singing.  The  lamp  cast  slanting  lilac  shadows. 

The  regiment  to  which  Listnitsky  was  as- 
signed had  suffered  considerable  losses,  and  had 
been  withdrawn  from  the  front  to  be  remounted 
and  have  its  complement  made  up.  The  regi- 
mental staff  headquarters  was  at  a  large  market 
village  called  Bereznyagi.  Listnitsky  left  the 
train  at  some  nameless  halt.  At  the  same  sta- 
tion a  field  hospital  was  detrained.  He  inquired 

546 


the  destination  of  the  hospital  from  the  doctor 
in  charge,  and  learned  that  it  had  been  trans- 
ferred from  the  south-western  front  to  the  sec- 
tor in  which  his  own  regiment  was  engaged. 
The  doctor  spoke  very  unfavourably  of  his  im- 
mediate superiors,  cursed  the  divisional  staff 
officers  and,  tugging  his  beard,  his  eyes  glow- 
ing behind  his  pince-nez,  poured  his  jaundiced 
anger  into  the  ears  of  his  chance  acquaintance. 

"Can  you  take  me  to  Bereznyagi?"  Listnitsky 
interrupted  him. 

"Yes,  get  into  the  trap.  Lieutenant,"  he 
agreed,  and  familiarly  twisting  the  button  on 
Listnitsky's  coat,  rumbled  on  with  his  complaints. 

"Just  imagine  it.  Lieutenant.  We've  travelled 
two  hundred  versts  in  cattle  trucks  only  to  loaf 
about  here,  with  nothing  to  do  at  a  time  when 
a  bloody  battle  has  been  going  on  for  two  days 
in  the  section  from  which  my  hospital  was 
transferred.  There  were  hundreds  of  wounded 
there  who  needed  our  help  badly!" 

The  doctor  repeated  the  words  "bloody  bat- 
tle" with  spiteful  relish. 

"How  do  you  explain  such  an  absurdity?" 
the  lieutenant  asked  out  of  politeness. 

"How?"  The  doctor  raised  his  eyebrows  iron- 
ically over  his  pince-nez  and  roared:  "Disor- 
der, chaos,  stupidity  of  the  commanding  staff 
-that's  the  reason  why.  Scoundrels  occupy  high 

35*  547 


posts  and  mix  things  up.  Inefficient,  lacking 
even  common  sense.  Do  you  remember  Vere- 
sayev's  memoirs  of  the  Russo-Japanese  war? 
Well,  it's  the  same  thing  all  over  again,  only 
twice  as  bad." 

Listnitsky  saluted  him  and  went  to  the  carts. 
The  angry  doctor,  his  puffy  red  cheeks  trem- 
bling, was  croaking  behind  him: 

"We'll  lose  the  war.  Lieutenant.  We  lost  one 
to  the  Japanese  but  didn't  grow  any  the  wiser. 
We  can  only  brag,  that's  all."  And  he  went 
along  the  rails,  stepping  over  little  puddles 
filmed  with  rainbow  spangles  of  oil,  and  shak- 
ing his  head  despairingly. 

Dusk  was  falling  as  the  field  hospital  ap- 
proached Bereznyagi.  The  wind  ruffled  the  yel- 
low stubble.  Clouds  were  massing  in  the  west. 
At  their  height  they  were  a  deep  violet  black, 
but  below  they  shaded  into  a  tender,  smoky 
lilac.  In  the  middle  the  formless  mass,  piled 
like  ice-floes  against  a  river  dam,  was  drawn 
aside.  Through  the  breach  poured  an  orange 
flood  of  sunset  rays,  spreading  in  a  spurtling 
fan  of  light  and  weaving  a  Bacchanalian  spec- 
trum of  colours  below. 

A  dead  horse  lay  by  the  roadside  ditch.  On 
one  of  its  hoofs,  flung  weirdly  upward,  the  horse- 
shoe gleamed.  As  the  trap  jogged  past,  List- 
nitsky stared  at  the  carcass.  The  orderly  with 

548 


whom  he  was  riding  spat  at  the  horse's  belly 
and  explained: 

"Been  guzzling  grain  .  . .  been  eating  too 
much  grain  .  .  ."  he  corrected  himself;  he  was 
about  to  spit  again  but  for  politeness'  sake 
swallowed  his  spittle  and  wiped  his  mouth  with 
his  sleeve.  "There  it  lies,  and  no  one  troubles 
to  bury  it.  That's  just  like  the  Russians.  The 
Germans  are  different." 

"What  do  you  know  about  it?"  Yevgeny  asked 
with  unreasoning  anger.  At  that  moment  he 
was  filled  with  hatred  for  the  orderly's  phleg- 
matic face  with  its  suggestion  of  superiority  and 
contempt.  The  man  was  grey  and  dreary  like 
a  stubble  field  in  September;  he  was  in  no  way 
different  from  the  thousands  of  peasant  soldiers 
whom  Yevgeny  had  seen  on  his  way  to  the  front. 
They  all  seemed  faded  and  drooping,  dullness 
stared  in  their  eyes,  grey,  blue,  green  or  any 
other  colour,  and  they  strongly  reminded  him 
of  ancient,  well-worn  copper  coins. 

"I  lived  in  Germany  for  three  years  before 
the  war,"  the  orderly  replied  unhurriedly.  In 
his  voice  was  the  same  shade  of  superiority 
and  contempt  that  showed  in  his  face.  "I  worked 
at  a  cigar  factory  in  Konigsberg,"  the  order- 
ly continued  lazily,  flicking  the  horse  with  the 
knotted  rein. 

"Hold  your  tongue!"  Listnitsky  commanded 

549 


sternly,  and  turned  to  glance  at  the  horse's 
head  with  its  forelock  tousled  over  its  eyes  and 
its  bare  sun-yellowed  row  of  teeth. 

One  leg  was  raised  and  bent  in  an  arch;  the 
hoof  was  slightly  cracked  but  the  hollow  had  a 
smooth  grey-blue  gleam  about  it  and  the  lieu- 
tenant could  tell  by  the  leg  and  by  the  finely 
chiselled  pastern  that  the  horse  was  young  and 
of  a  good  breed. 

They  drove  on  over  the  bumpy  road.  The 
colours  faded  in  the  west,  a  wind  sprang  up  and 
scattered  the  clouds.  Behind  them  the  leg  of  the 
dead  horse  stuck  up  like  a  broken  wayside  cross. 
As  Yevgeny  stared  back  at  it,  a  sheaf  of  rays  fell 
suddenly  on  the  horse,  and  in  their  orange  light 
the  leg  with  its  sorrel  hair  blossomed  unexpect- 
edly like  some  marvellous  leafless  branch  of 
legend. 

As  the  field  hospital  drove  into  Bereznyagi 
it  passed  a  transport  of  wounded  soldiers.  An 
elderly  Byelorussian,  the  owner  of  the  first  wag- 
on, strode  along  at  his  horse's  head,  the  hem- 
pen reins  gathered  in  his  hands.  On  the  wagon 
lay  a  Cossack  with  bandaged  head.  He  was 
resting  on  his  elbow,  but  his  eyes  were  closed 
wearily  as  he  chewed  bread  and  spat  out  the 
black  mess.  At  his  side  a  soldier  was  stretched 
out;  over  his  buttocks  his  torn  trousers  were 
horribly  shrivelled    and    taut    with  congealed 

550 


blood.  He  was  cursing  savagely,  without  lift- 
ing his  head.  Listnitsky  was  horrified  as  he  lis- 
tened to  the  intonation  of  the  man's  voice,  for 
it  sounded  exactly  like  a  believer  fervently  mut- 
tering prayers.  On  the  second  Vv^agon  five  or  six 
soldiers  were  lying  side  by  side.  One  of  them, 
possessed  of  a  feverish  gaiety,  his  eyes  unnatu- 
rally bright  and  inflamed,  was  telling  a  story: 

".  .  .  It  seems  an  ambassador  from  that  em.per- 
or  of  theirs  came  here  and  made  an  offer  about 
having  peace.  The  thing  is  it  was  an  honest 
man  who  told  me.  I'm  hoping  he  wasn't  just 
spinning  a  yarn." 

"I  expect  he  was,"  one  of  the  others  rejoined 
doubtfully,  shaking  his  round  head  that  bore 
the  scars  of  a  recent  attack  of  scrofula. 

"But  perhaps  he  did  really  come  here,"  re- 
sponded a  third  man  who  was  sitting  with  his 
back  to  the  horses,  in  a  soft  Volga  country 
brogue. 

On  the  fifth  wagon  three  Cossacks  were  com- 
fortably seated.  As  Listnitsky  passed  they 
stared  silently  at  him,  their  harsh  dusty  faces 
showing  no  sign  of  respect  for  an  officer. 

"Good-day,  Cossacks!"  the  lieutenant  greeted 
them. 

"Good-day,  Your  Honour,"  the  handsome  sil- 
ver-moustached  Cossack  sitting  nearest  the  driv- 
er replied  indifferently. 

551 


"What  regiment  are  you?"  Listnitsky  contin- 
ued, trying  to  make  out  the  number  on  the 
Cossack's  blue  shoulder-strap. 

"The  Twelfth." 

"Where  is  your  regiment  now?" 

"We  couldn't  say." 

"Well,  where  were  you  wounded?" 

"By  the  village  . .  .  not  far  from  here." 

The  Cossacks  whispered  among  themselves 
and  one  of  them,  holding  his  roughly  bandaged 
hand  with  his  sound  hand,  jumped  down  from 
the  wagon. 

"Just  a  minute.  Your  Honour."  He  padded 
across  the  road  on  bare  feet,  carefully  nursing 
his  bullet-torn  hand,  which  was  already  show- 
ing signs   of  inflammation. 

"You  wouldn't  be  from  Vyeshenskaya,  would 
you?  You're  not  Listnitsky?" 

"Yes,  I  am." 

"That's  what  we  thought.  You  haven't  got 
anything  to  smoke,  have  you.  Your  Honour? 
Give  us  something,  for  Christ's  sake,  we're  dy- 
ing for  a  smoke." 

He  walked  along  by  the  trap,  gripping  its 
painted  side,  Listnitsky  took  out  his  cigarette 
case. 

"Could  you  spare  us  a  dozen?  There  are 
three  of  us,  you  know,"  the  Cossack  smiled 
appealingly, 

552 


Listnitsky  emptied  the  contents  of  his  case 
on  to  the  man's  broad  brown  palm  and  asked: 
"Many  wounded  in  your  regiment?" 

"A  couple  of  dozen." 

"Heavy  losses?" 

"A  lot  of  us  have  been  killed.  Light  a  match 
for  me.  Your  Honour.  Thank  you  kindly."  The 
Cossack  took  the  light  and  as  he  dropped  be- 
hind he  shouted:  "Three  Cossacks  from  Tatarsky, 
near  your  estate,  have  been  killed.  They've 
done  in  a  lot  of  us  Cossacks." 

He  waved  his  sound  hand  and  went  to  catch 
up  with  the  wagon.  The  wind  flapped  through 
his  unbelted  tunic. 

The  commander  of  Listnitsky's  new  regiment 
had  his  headquarters  in  the  house  of  a  priest. 
On  the  square  Listnitsky  took  leave  of  the  doc- 
tor, who  had  kindly  offered  him  a  seat  in  the 
hospital  trap,  and  went  off  to  find  regimental 
headquarters,  brushing  the  dust  off  his  uniform 
as  he  walked.  A  vividly  red-bearded  sergeant- 
major,  busy  changing  the  guard,  marched  past 
him  with  a  sentry.  He  saluted  smartly  and,  in 
reply  to  Listnitsky's  question,  pointed  out  the 
house.  The  place  was  very  quiet  and  slack,  like 
all  staff  headquarters  situated  away  from  the 
front  line.  Clerks  were  bent  over  a  table;  an 
elderly  captain  was  laughing  into  the  mouth- 
piece of    a   field-telephone.    The    flies   droned 

553 


around  the  windows,  and  distant  telephone  bells 
buzzed  like  mosquitoes.  An  orderly  conducted 
Yevgeny  to  the  regimental  commander's  private 
room.  They  were  met  on  the  threshold  by  a  tall 
colonel  with  a  scar  on  his  chin,  who  greeted 
him  coldly,  and  with  a  gesture  invited  him  into 
the  room.  As  he  closed  the  door  the  colonel 
passed  his  hand  over  his  hair  with  a  gesture  of 
ineffable  weariness,  and  said  in  a  soft,  monoto- 
nous voice: 

"The  brigade  staff  informed  me  yesterday 
that  you  were  on  your  way.  Sit  down." 

He  questioned  Yevgeny  about  his  previous 
service,  asked  for  the  latest  news  from  the  cap- 
ital, inquired  about  his  journey,  but  not  once 
during  all  their  brief  conversation  did  he  raise 
his  weary  eyes  to  Listnitsky's  face. 

"He  must  have  had  a  hard  time  at  the  front; 
he  looks  mortally  tired,"  Yevgeny  thought  sym- 
pathetically. As  though  deliberately  to  disillu- 
sion him,  the  colonel  scratched  the  bridge  of 
his  nose  with  his  sword-hilt  and  remarked: 

"Well,  Lieutenant,  you  m.ust  make  the  ac- 
quaintance of  your  brother  officers.  You  must  ex- 
cuse me,  I  haven't  been  to  bed  for  three  nights 
running.  In  this  dead  hole  there's  nothing  to  do 
except  play  cards  and  get  drunk." 

Listnitsky  saluted  and  turned  to  the  door, 
hiding  his  contempt  with  a  smile.  He  went  out 

554 


reflecting  unfavourably  on  this  first  meeting 
with  his  commanding  officer,  and  ironically 
amused  at  the  respect  which  the  colonel's  tired 
appearance  and  the  scar  on  his  chin  had  in- 
stilled in  him. 

XV 

The  division  was  allotted  the  task  of  forcing 
the  river  Styr  and  taking  the  enemy  in  the  rear. 

In  a  few  days  Listnitsky  got  used  to  the  offi- 
cers of  the  regiment  and  was  quickly  drawn 
into  the  atmosphere  of  battle,  which  drove  out 
the  feeling  of  ease  and  complacency  that  had 
crept  into  his  soul. 

The  operations  to  force  the  river  were  car- 
ried through  brilliantly.  The  division  shattered  a 
considerable  concentration  of  enemy  forces  on 
their  left  flank,  and  came  out  in  the  rear  of  the 
main  forces.  The  Austrians  attempted  to  initi- 
ate a  counter-offensive  with  the  aid  of  Magyar 
cavalry,  but  the  Cossack  batteries  swept  them 
away  with  shrapnel,  and  the  Magyar  squadrons 
retreated  in  disorder,  cut  to  pieces  by  flanking 
machine-gun  fire  and  pursued  by  the  Cossacks. 

Listnitsky  went  into  the  counter-attack  with 
his  regiment.  The  troop  he  commanded  lost  one 
Cossack,  and  four  were  wounded.  One  of  them, 
a  young,  hook-nosed  man  was  crushed  under 
his  dead  horse.  Outwardly  calm,  the  lieutenant 

555 


rode  past  trying  not  to  hear  the  Cossack's  low 
hoarse  groaning.  He  was  wounded  in  the  shoul- 
der and  kept  beseeching  the  Cossacks  riding 
past: 

"Brothers,  don't  leave  me.  Get  me  free  of  the 
horse,  brothers.  .  .  ." 

His  low,  tortured  voice  could  be  heard  call- 
ing faintly,  but  there  was  no  spark  of  pity  in 
the  surging  hearts  of  the  other  Cossacks,  or  if 
there  was,  it  was  crushed  by  the  will  that  drove 
them  on  relentlessly,  forbidding  them  to  dis- 
mount. The  troop  rode  on  for  five  minutes  at  a 
trot,  letting  the  horses  recover  their  wind.  Half 
a  verst  away  the  scattered  Magyar  squadrons 
were  in  full  retreat;  here  and  there  among  them 
appeared  the  grey-blue  uniforms  of  the  enemy 
infantry.  An  Austrian  baggage  train  crawled 
along  the  crest  of  a  hill  with  the  farewell  smoke 
of  shell  bursts  hovering  above  it.  From  the  left 
a  battery  was  bombarding  the  train,  and  its  dull 
thunder  rolled  over  the  fields  and  echoed 
through  the  forest. 

The  sergeant-major  leading  the  battalion  gave 
the  command  "canter"  and  the  three  squadrons 
broke  into  a  flagging  trot.  The  horses  swayed 
under  their  riders  and  foam  scattered  from  their 
flanks  in  yellowish  pink  blossoms. 

The  regiment  halted  for  the  night  in  a  small 
village.  The  twelve  officers  were  all  crowded 

556 


into  one  hut.  Broken  with  fatigue  and  hunger, 
they  lay  down  to  sleep.  The  field-kitchen  arrived 
only  about  midnight.  Cornet  Chubov  brought  in 
a  pot  of  soup.  The  rich  smell  awakened  the  offi- 
cers and  within  a  few  minutes,  their  faces  still 
puffy  with  sleep,  they  were  eating  in  greedy  si- 
lence, making  up  for  the  two  days  lost  in  battle. 
After  the  late  meal  their  previous  sleepiness 
passed,  and  they  lay  on  their  cloaks  on  the 
straw  talking  and  smoking. 

Junior  captain  Kalmykov,  a  tubby  little  of- 
ficer whose  face  as  well  as  his  name  bore  the 
traces  of  his  Mongolian  origin,  gesticulated 
fiercely  as  he  declared: 

"This  war  is  not  for  me.  I  was  born  four 
centuries  too  late.  You  know,  I  shan't  live  to 
see  the  end  of  the  war." 

"Oh,  drop  your  fortune-telling!" 

"It's  not  fortune-telling.  It's  my  predestined 
end.  I'm  atavistic,  and  I'm  superfluous  here. 
When  we  were  under  fire  today  I  trembled  with 
frenzy;  I  can't  stand  not  seeing  the  enemy.  The 
horrible  feeling  I  get  is  equivalent  to  fear. 
They  fire  at  you  from  several  versts  away, 
and  you  ride  like  a  bustard  hunted  over  the 
steppe." 

"I  had  a  look  at  an  Austrian  howitzer  in  Ku- 
palka.  Have  any  of  you  seen  one,  gentlemen?" 
asked  Captain   Atamanchukov,    licking   the  re- 

557 


mains  of  tinned  meat  off  his  ginger  moustache, 
which  was  clipped  in  the  English  style. 

"A  wonderful  piece  of  work!  Those  sights,  the 
whole  mechanism-sheer  perfection,"  the  en- 
thusiastic reply  came  from  Cornet  Chubov,  who 
had  by  this  time  emptied  a  second  mess-tin  of 
soup. 

"I  have  seen  it,  but  I  have  nothing  to  say.  I 
am  a  complete  ignoramus  where  artillery  is  con- 
cerned. To  me  it  was  just  a  gun  like  any  other, 
with  a  big  barrel,  that's  all." 

"I  envy  those  who  fought  in  the  old-tim.e, 
primitive  fashion/'  Kalmykov  continued,  turning 
to  Listnitsky.  "To  thrust  at  your  opponent  in 
honourable  battle,  and  to  split  him  in  two  with 
your  sword-that's  the  sort  of  warfare  I  under- 
stand. But  this  is  the  devil  knows  what." 

"In  future  wars  cavalry  will  play  no  part.  It 
will  be  abolished." 

"It  simply  won't  exist." 

"Well,  that  I  couldn't  say." 

"No  doubt  about  it." 

"But  you  can't  replace  men  by  machines.- 
You're  going  too  far." 

"I'm  not  referring  to  men,  but  to  horses.  Mo- 
tor cycles  or  motor  cars  will  take  their  place." 

"I  can  just  imagine  a  motor  squadron!" 

"That's  all  nonsense!"  Kalmykov  interposed 
excitedly.  "An  absurd  fantasy!  Armies  will  use 

555 


horses  for  a  long  time  yet.  We  don't  know  what 
war  will  be  like  in  two  or  three  centuries'  time, 
but  today  cavalry.  .  .  ." 

"What  will  you  do  with  the  cavalry  when 
there  are  trenches  all  along  the  front?  Tell  me 
that!" 

"They'll  break  through  the  trenches,  ride 
across  them,  and  make  sorties  far  to  the  rear 
of  the  enemy;  that  will  be  the  cavalry's  task." 

"Nonsense!" 

"Oh,  shut  up  and  let's  get  some  sleep." 

The  argument  tailed  off,  and  snores  took  its 
place.  Listnitsky  lay  on  his  back,  breathing  the 
pungent  scent  of  the  musty  straw  on  which  he 
had  spread  his  cloak.  Kalmykov  lay  down  at 
his  side. 

"You  should  have  a  talk  with  the  volunteer 
Bunchuk,"  he  whispered  to  Yevgeny.  "He's  in 
your  troop.  A  very  interesting  fellow!" 

"In  what  way?"  Listnitsky  asked,  as  he 
turned  his  back  to  Kalmykov. 

"He's  a  Russianized  Cossack.  Lived  in  Mos- 
cow. An  ordinary  worker,  but  interested  in  the 
question  of  machinery.  He's  a  first-rate  ma- 
chine-gunner, too." 

"Let's  go  to  sleep,"  Listnitsky  proposed. 

"Perhaps  we  should,"  Kalmykov  agreed, 
thinking  of  something  else.  He  frowned  sheep- 
ishly:  "You  must    forgive  me,   Lieutenant,  for 

559 


the  way  my  feet  smell.  You  know,  I  haven't 
changed  my  socks  for  a  fortnight,  they  are 
simply  rotting  with  sweat.  .  .  .  It's  really  foul. 
I  must  get  a  pair  of  foot-cloths  from  one  of  the 
men." 

"Not  at  all,"  Listnitsky  mumbled  as  he 
dropped  asleep. 

Listnitsky  completely  forgot  Kalmykov's  refer- 
ence to  Bunchuk,  but  the  very  next  day  chance 
brought  him  into  contact  with  the  volunteer.  The 
regimental  commander  ordered  him  to  ride  at 
dawn  on  reconnaissance  patrol,  and  if  possible 
to  establish  contact  with  the  infantry  regiment 
which  was  continuing  the  advance  on  the  left 
flank.  Stumbling  about  the  yard  in  the  half-light, 
and  falling  over  the  bodies  of  sleeping  Cossacks, 
Listnitsky  found  the  troop  sergeant  and  roused 
him: 

"I  want  five  men  to  go  on  a  reconnaissance 
with  me.  Have  my  horse  got  ready.  Quickly!" 

While  he  was  waiting  for  the  men  to  assem- 
ble, a  stocky  Cossack  came  to  the  door  of  the 
hut. 

"Your  Honour,"  the  man  said,  "the  sergeant 
will  not  let  me  go  with  you  because  it  isn't  my 
turn.  Will  you  give  me  permission  to  go?" 

"Are  you  out  for  promotion?  Or  have  you 
done  something  wrong?"  Listnitsky  asked,  try- 
ing to  make  out  the  man's  face  in  the  darkness. 

560 


"I  haven't  done  anything." 

"All  right,  you  can  come,"  Listnitsky  decid- 
ed. As  the  Cossack  turned  to  go,  he  shouted 
after  him: 

"Hey!  Tell  the  sergeant. . . ." 

"My  name's  Bunchuk,"  the  Cossack  interrupt- 
ed. 

"A  volunteer?" 

"Yes." 

Recovering  from  his  confusion,  Listnitsky 
corrected  his  style  of  address:  "Well,  Bunchuk, 
please  tell  the  sergeant  to.  .  .  .  Oh,  all  right,  I'll 
tell  him  myself." 

The  morning  darkness  thinned  as  Listnitsky 
led  his  men  out  of  the  village  past  sentries  and 
outposts.  When  they  had  ridden  some  distance 
he  called: 

"Volunteer  Bunchuk!" 

"Sir!" 

"Please  bring  your  horse  up  beside  me." 

Bunchuk  brought  his  commonplace  mount 
alongside  Listnitsky's  thoroughbred. 

"What  village  are  you  from?"  Listnitsky 
asked  him,  studying  the  man's  profile. 

"Novocherkasskaya." 

"May  I  be  informed  of  the  reason  that  com- 
pelled you  to  join  up  as  a  volunteer?" 

"Certainly!"  Bunchuk  replied  with  the  slight- 
est trace  of  a  smile.    The    unwinking    gaze  of 

36—1933  JS61 


his  greenish  eyes  was  harsh  and  fixed.  "I'm  in- 
terested in  the  art  of  war.  I  want  to  master  it." 

"There  are  military  schools  established  for 
that  purpose." 

"There  are." 

"Well,  what  is  your  reason?" 

"I  want  to  study  it  in  practice  first.  I  can  get 
the  theory  afterwards." 

"What  were  you  before  the  war  broke  out?" 

"A  worker." 

"Where  were  you  working?" 

"In  Petersburg,  Rostov,  and  the  armament 
works  at  Tula.  I'm  thinking  of  applying  to  be 
transferred  to  a  machine-gun  detachment." 

"Do  you  know  anything  about  machine- 
guns?" 

"1  can  handle  the  Bertier,  Madsen,  Maxim, 
Hotchkiss,  Vickers,  Lewis,  and  several  other 
makes." 

"Oho!  I'll  have  a  word  with  the  regimental 
commander  about  it!" 

"Please  do." 

Listnitsky  glanced  again  at  Bunchuk's  stocky 
figure.  It  reminded  him  of  the  Don-side  cork- 
elm.  There  was  nothing  remarkable  about  the 
man.  Only  the  firmly  pressed  jaws  and  the  direct 
challenging  glance  distinguished  him  from  the 
mass  of  other  rank-and-file  Cossacks  around 
him.  He  smiled  but  rarely,  with  only  the  corners 

562 


of  his  lips;  and  even  then  his  eyes  grew  no  soft- 
er, but  still  retained  a  faint  gleam  of  aloofness. 
Coldly  restrained,  he  was  exactly  like  the  cork- 
elm,  the  tree  of  a  stern,  iron  hardness  that  grows 
on  the  grey,  loose  soil  of  the  inhospitable  Don- 
side  earth. 

They  rode  in  silence  for  a  while.  Bunchuk 
rested  his  broad  palms  on  his  blistered  saddle- 
bow. Listnitsky  selected  a  cigarette,  and  as  he 
lit  it  from  Bunchuk's  match  he  smelled  the 
sweet  resinous  scent  of  horse's  sweat  on  the 
man's  hand.  The  back  of  his  hand  was  thickly 
covered  with  brown  hair,  and  Listnitsky  felt  an 
involuntary  desire  to  stroke  it. 

Swallowing  down  the  pungent  tobacco 
smoke,  he  said: 

"When  we  get  to  the  wood,  you  and  another 
Cossack  will  take  the  track  running  off  to  the 
left.  Do  you  see  it?" 

"Yes." 

"If  you  don't  come  across  our  infantry  by 
the  time  you  have  gone  half  a  verst,  turn 
back." 

"Very  good." 

They  broke  into  a  trot. 

At  a  turn  of  the  road  into  the  forest  stood 
a  clump  of  maidenly  birches.  Beyond  them  the 
eye  was  wearied  by  the  joyless  yellow  of  stunt- 
ed pines,    the    straggling    forest    undergrowth 

36*  563 


and  bushes  crushed  by  Austrian  baggage  trains. 
On  the  right  the  earth  trembled  with  the  thun- 
der of  distant  artillery,  but  by  the  birches  it 
was  inexpressibly  quiet.  The  earth  was  drink- 
ing in  the  heavy  dew;  the  pink-hued  grasses 
were  flooded  with  autumnal  colours  that  cried 
of  the  speedy  death  of  colour.  Listnitsky  halted 
by  the  birches  and,  taking  out  his  binoculars, 
studied  the  rise  beyond  the  forest.  A  bee  settled 
on  the  honey-coloured  hilt  of  his  sabre. 

"Stupid!"  Bunchuk  remarked  quietly  and 
compassionately. 

"What  is?"  Listnitsky  turned  to  him. 
With  his  eyes  Bunchuk  indicated  the  bee,  and 
Listnitsky  smiled: 

"Its  honey  will  be  bitter,  don't  you  think?" 
It  was  not  Bunchuk  that  answered  him.  From 
a  distant  clump  of  pines  a  piercing  magpie 
stutter  shattered  the  silence,  and  a  spurt  of 
bullets  tore  through  the  birches,  sending  a 
branch  crashing  on  to  the  neck  of  Listnitsky's 
horse. 

They  turned  and  galloped  back  towards  the 
village,  urging  on  their  horses  with  shout  and 
whip.  The  Austrian  machine-gun  flung  the  rest 
of  its  ammunition  after  them. 

After  this  first  encounter  Listnitsky  had  more 
than  one  talk  with  the  volunteer  Bunchuk.  On 
each  occasion  he  was  struck  by  the  inflexible 

564 


will  that  gleamed  in  the  man's  eyes,  and  could 
not  discover  what  lay  behind  the  intangible 
secrecy  that  veiled  the  face  of  one  so  ordinary- 
looking.  Bunchuk  always  spoke  with  a  smile 
compressed  in  his  firm  lips,  and  he  gave  List- 
nitsky  the  impression  that  he  was  applying 
a  definite  rule  to  trace  a  tortuous  path.  He  was 
transferred  to  a  machine-gun  detachment.  A 
few  days  later,  while  the  regiment  was  resting 
behind  the  front,  Listnitsky  overtook  him 
walking  along  by  the  wall  of  a  burned-out 
shed. 

"Ah!  Volunteer  Bunchuk!" 

The  Cossack  turned  his  head  and  saluted. 

"Where  are  you  going?"  Listnitsky  asked, 

"To  my  commander." 

"Then  we're  going  the  same  way." 

For  some  time  they  walked  along  the  street 
of  the  ruined  village  in   silence. 

People  were  moving  about  round  the  few 
outbuildings  that  remained  intact,  horsemen 
rode  past,  a  field-kitchen  was  smoking  in  the 
middle  of  the  street  with  a  long  queue  of  Cos- 
sacks waiting  their  turn  beside  it;  there  was 
a  cold  drizzle  in  the  air. 

"Well,  are  you  learning  the  art  of  war?" 
Listnitsky  asked,  glancing  sidelong  at  Bun- 
chuk, who  was  slightly  behind  him. 

"Yes,  I  am," 

565 


"What  do  you  propose  to  do  after  the  war?" 
asked  the  lieutenant,  glancing  for  some  reason 
at  Bunchuk's  hands. 

"Some  will  reap  what  is  sown  .  .  .  but  I  shall 
see,"  Bunchuk  replied. 

"How  am  I  to  interpret  that  remark?" 

"You  know  the  proverb,  'Those  who  sow 
the  wind  shall  reap  the  whirlwind'?  Well,  that's 
how." 

"But  dropping  the  riddles?" 

"It's  quite  clear  as  it  is.  Excuse  me,  I'm 
turning  to  the  left  here." 

He  put  his  fingers  to  the  peak  of  his  cap  and 
turned  off  the  road.  Shrugging  his  shoulders, 
Listnitsky  stood  staring  after  him. 

"Is  the  fellow  trying  to  be  original,  or  is  he 
just  someone  with  a  bee  in  his  bonnet?"  he 
wondered  in  irritation,  as  he  stepped  into  the 
squadron-commander's   well-kept  dug-out. 

XVI 

The  second  and  third  lines  of  reserves  were 
called  up  together.  The  villages  of  the  Don 
were  as  deserted  as  though  everybody  had  gone 
out  to  mow  or  reap  at  the  busy  time  of  harvest. 

But  a  bitter  harvest  was  reaped  along  the 
frontiers  that  year;  death  dogged  the  footsteps 
of  the  men,  and  many  a  Cossack's  wife  wailed 

566 


bare-headed  for  her  departed  one:  "Oh,  my 
darling,  who  has  taken  you  from  me?"  The 
dear  heads  were  laid  low  on  all  sides,  the  Cos- 
sack blood  was  shed,  and  glassy-eyes,  unwake- 
able,  they  rotted  while  the  artillery  thundered 
its  funeral  dirge  in  Austria,  in  Poland,  in  Prus- 
sia. . . .  For  the  eastern  wind  did  not  carry  the 
weeping  of  their  wives  and  mothers  to  their 
ears. 

The  flower  of  the  Cossackry  had  left  the  vil- 
lages and  perished  amid  the  lice  and  horror  of 
the  battle-fields. 

One  pleasant  September  day  a  milky  gossa- 
mer web,  fine  and  cottony,  hung  over  the  vil- 
lage of  Tatarsky.  The  bloodless  sun  smiled  like 
one  bereft,  the  stern,  virginal  blue  sky  was  re- 
pellently  clear  and  proud.  Beyond  the  Don 
the  forest  was  a  jaundiced  yellow,  the  poplar 
gleamed  pallidly,  the  oak  dropped  occasional 
figured  leaves;  only  the  alder  remained  gaudi- 
ly green,  gladdening  the  keen  eye  of  the  mag- 
pie with  its  hardiness. 

That  day  Pantelei  Prokofyevich  received  a 
letter  from  the  army  on  active  service.  Dunya 
brought  it  back  from  the  post.  As  the  postmas- 
ter handed  it  to  her  he  bowed,  shook  his  old 
bald  pate,  and  deprecatingly  opened  his  arms. 

"Forgive  me  for  the  love  of  God  for  opening 
the  letter.  Tell  your  father  I  opened  it.  I  badly 

567 


wanted  to  know  how  the  war  was  going.  .  . . 
Forgive  me  and  tell  Pantelei  Prokofyevich  what 
I  said."  He  seemed  confused  and,  unaware  of 
the  ink-smear  on  his  nose,  came  out  of  his  of- 
fice v/ith  Dunya,  muttering  something  unintel- 
ligible. Filled  with  foreboding,  she  returned 
home,  and  fumbled  at  her  breast  a  long  time 
for  the  letter. 

"Hurry  up!"  Pantelei  shouted,  plucking  at 
his  beard. 

As  she  drew  it  out  she  said  breathlessly: 

"The  postmaster  told  me  he  had  read  the  let- 
ter and  that  you  mustn't  be  angry  with  him." 

"The  devil  take  him!  Is  it  from  Grigory?" 
the  old  man  asked,  breathing  agitatedly  into 
her  face.  "From  Grigory?  Or  from  Pyotr?" 

"No,  Father.  ...  I  don't  know  the  writing." 

"Read  it!"  Ilyinichna  cried,  tottering  heavily 
to  the  bench.  Her  legs  were  giving  her  much 
trouble  these  days.  Natalya  ran  in  from  the 
yard  and  stood  by  the  stove  with  her  head  on 
one  side,  her  elbows  pressing  into  her  breasts. 
A  smile  trembled  like  sunlight  on  her  lips.  She 
still  hoped  for  a  message  from  Grigory  or  the 
slightest  reference  to  her  in  his  letters,  in  re- 
ward for  her  dog-like  devotion  and  fidelity. 

"Where's  Darya?"  Ilyinichna  whispered. 

"Shut  up!"  Pantelei  shouted.  "Read  it!"  he 
added  to  Dunya. 

568 


"  1  have  to  inform  you,'  "  she  began,  then, 
slipping  off  the  bench  where  she  had  been  sit- 
ting, she  screamed: 

"Father!  Mother. . .!  Oh,  Mama Our  Gri- 

sha.  .  .  !  Oh,  oh.  .  .  !  Grisha's  .  .  .  been  killed." 

Entangled  among  the  leaves  of  a  half-dead 
geranium,  a  wasp  beat  against  the  window, 
buzzing  furiously.  In  the  yard  a  hen  clucked 
contentedly;  through  the  open  door  came  the 
sound  of  ringing,  childish  laughter. 

A  shudder  ran  across  Natalya's  face,  though 
her  lips  still  wore  her  quivering  smile.  Rising 
to  his  feet,  his  head  twitching  paralytically, 
Pantelei  stared  in  frantic  perplexity  at  Dunya. 

The  communication  read: 

I  have  to  inform  you  that  your  son  Grigory 
Panteleyeuich  Melekhou,  a  Cossack  in  the 
Twelfth  Don  Cossack  Regiment,  was  killed  on 
the  16th  of  September  near  the  town  of  Ka- 
menka-Strumilovo.  Your  son  died  the  death  of 
the  brave;  may  that  be  your  consolation  in 
your  irreplaceable  loss.  His  personal  effects  will 
be  handed  to  his  brother,  Pyotr  Melekhov.  His 
horse  will  remain  with  the  regiment. 

Commander  of  the  Fourth  Squadron, 

Junior  Captain  Polkovnikov. 
Field  Army 

18th  September,  1914. 

569 


After  the  arrival  of  the  letter  Pantelei  seemed 
suddenly  to  wilt.  He  grew  noticeably  old- 
er every  day.  His  memory  began  to  go  and 
his  mind  lost  its  clarity.  He  walked  about  with 
bowed  back,  his  face  an  iron  hue;  and  the  fe- 
verish gleam  in  his  eyes  betrayed  his  mental 
stress. 

He  put  the  letter  away  under  the  icon.  Sever- 
al times  a  day  he  went  into  the  porch  to  beckon 
to  Dunya.  When  she  came  in  he  would 
order  her  to  get  the  letter  and  read  it  to  him, 
fearfully  glancing  at  the  door  of  the  best  room 
where  his  wife  was  mourning.  "Read  it  quiet- 
ly, to  yourself  like,"  he  would  say,  winking 
cunningly.  Choking  down  her  tears,  Dunya 
would  read  the  first  sentence,  and  then  Pantelei, 
squatting  on  his  heels,  would  raise  his  huge, 
hoof-like  brown  hand: 

"All  right.  I  know  the  rest.  Take  the  letter 
back  and  put  it  where  you  found  it.  Quietly,  or 
Mother.  .  .  ."  And  he  would  wink  repulsively, 
his  whole  face  contorted  like  burnt  tree-bark. 

He  began  to  go  grey,  and  the  dazzling  grey 
hairs  swiftly  patched  his  head  and  wove 
threads  into  his  beard.  He  grew  gluttonous  too, 
and  gobbled  his  food. 

Nine  days  after  the  requiem  mass,  the  Me- 
Ickhovs  invited  Father  Vissarion  and  their  rela- 

570 


tions  to  the  repast  in  memory  of  the  fallen  Gri- 
gory.  Pantelei  ate  fast  and  ravenously  with  the 
noodles  hanging  from  his  beard  like  ringlets. 
Ilyinichna,  who  had  been  anxiously  watching 
him  during  the  past  few  days,  burst  into  tears; 

"Father,  what's  the  matter  with  you?" 

"Eh?"  the  old  man  said  with  a  start,  raising 
his  bleary  eyes  from  his  plate.  Ilyinichna 
waved  her  hand  and  turned  away,  pressing  her 
handkerchief  to  her  eyes. 

"Father,  you  eat  as  though  you  had  fasted  for 
three  days,"  Darya  said  angrily,  her  eyes  glit- 
tering. 

"I  eat...?  All  right,  I  won't,"  Pantelei  re- 
plied, overcome  with  embarrassment.  He 
glanced  around  the  table,  then,  pressing  his  lips 
together,  and  sitting  with  knitted  brows,  he 
lapsed  into  silence,  not  even  replying  to  ques- 
tions. 

"Have  courage,  Prokofyevich!  What's  the  good 
of  grieving  so  much?"  Father  Vissarion  attempt- 
ed to  rally  him  when  the  meal  was  ended. 
"Grigory's  death  was  a  holy  one;  don't  offend 
God,  old  man.  Your  son  has  received  a  crown 
of  thorns  for  his  tsar  and  his  fatherland.  And 
you  . . .  it's  a  sin,  and  God  won't  pardon  you." 

"That's  just  it.  Father!  'Died  the  death  of  the 
brave.'  That's  what  his  commander  said." 

Kissing  the  priest's  hand,  the  old  man  leaned 

571 


against  the  door-post,  and  for  the  first  time 
since  the  arrival  of  the  letter  he  burst  into 
tears,  his  body  shaking  violently. 

From  that  day  he  regained  his  self-control 
and  recovered  a  little  from  the  blow. 

Each  licked  the  wound  in  his  own  way.  When 
Natalya  heard  Dunya  scream  that  Grigory  was 
dead  she  ran  into  the  yard.  "I'll  kill  myself. 
It's  all  over  for  me,"  the  thought  drove  her  on 
like  fire.  She  struggled  in  Darya's  arms,  and 
then  with  joyful  relief  she  swooned,  for  at  least 
it  postponed  the  moment  when  consciousness 
would  return  and  violently  remind  her  of  what 
had  happened.  She  passed  a  week  in  dull  ob- 
livion, and  returned  to  the  world  of  reality 
changed,  quieter,  gnawed  by  a  black  impo- 
tence. 

An  invisible  corpse  haunted  the  Melekhovs' 
house  and  the  living  breathed  in  its  mouldering 
scent. 

XVII 

On  the  twelfth  day  after  the  news  of  Gri- 
gory's  death  the  Melekhovs  received  two  letters 
by  the  same  post  from  Pyotr.  Dunya  read  them 
at  the  post  office,  and  went  speeding  home  like 
a  stalk  caught  up  by  the  wind,  then  swayed 
and  stopped,  leaning  against  a  fence.  She 
caused   a   great  fluster  in  the  village,  and  carried 

572 


an  indescribable  feeling  of  agitation  into  the 
house. 

"Grisha's  alive!  Our  dear  one's  alive!"  she 
sobbed  and  cried  when  still  some  distance 
away.  "Pyotr's  written.  Grisha's  wounded,  but 
he  isn't  dead.  He's  alive,  alive!" 

In  his  letter  dated  September  20th,  Pyotr 
had  written: 

Greetings,  dear  parents,  I  must  tell  you  that 
our  Grisha  all  but  gave  up  the  ghost,  but  now. 
glory  be,  he's  alive  and  well,  as  we  wish  you  in 
the  name  oi  the  Lord  God  health  and  well-be- 
ing. Close  to  the  town  oi  Kamenka-Strumilo- 
vo  his  regiment  was  in  battle,  and  in  the  attack 
the  Cossacks  oi  his  troop  saw  him  cut  down  by 
a  Hungarian  hussar,  and  Grigory  iell  irom  his 
horse  and  aiter  that  nobody  knew  anything, 
and  when  I  asked  them  they  could  tell  me  noth- 
ing. But  aiterwards  I  learned  irom  Misha 
Koshevoi  that  Grigory  lay  till  night-time,  but 
that  in  the  night  he  came  round  and  started 
crawling  away.  He  crawled  along  making  his 
way  by  the  stars,  and  came  across  one  oi  our 
oiBcers  wounded  in  the  belly  and  legs  by  a 
shell.  He  picked  him  up  and  dragged  him  ior 
six  versts.  And  ior  this  Grigory  has  been  given 
the  Cross  oi  St.  George  and  has  been  raised  to 
the  rank  oi  corporal.  Think  oi  that!  His  wound 

573 


isn't  serious,  he  only  received  a  skin  wound  on 
the  scalp,  hut  he  tell  iroin  his  horse,  and  got 
stunned.  Misha  told  me  he  is  already  hack  at 
the  front.  You  must  excuse  this  letter,  I'm 
writing  in  the  saddle. 

In  his  second  letter  Pyotr  asked  his  family 
to  send  him  some  dried  cherries  from  their  own 
orchard,  and  told  them  not  to  forget  him  but  to 
write  more  often.  In  the  same  letter  he  upbraid- 
ed Grigory  because,  so  he  had  been  told,  he 
was  not  looking  after  his  horse  properly,  and 
Pyotr  was  angry,  as  the  horse  was  really  his. 
He  asked  his  father  to  write  to  Grigory,  and 
said  he  had  sent  a  message  to  him  that  if  he 
did  not  look  after  the  horse  he  would  give  him 
one  on  the  nose  that  would  draw  blood,  even 
if  he  had  got  the  Cross  of  St.  George.  The  letter 
ended  with  an  endless  list  of  greetings  and  be- 
tween the  crumpled,  rain-blotted  lines  it  was  not 
hard  to  detect  a  feeling  of  bitterness  and  grief. 
Evidently  Pyotr  was  not  having  an  easy  time  at 
the  front  either. 

Old  Pantelei  was  a  pitiful  sight  to  see.  He 
was  dazed  with  joy.  He  seized  both  letters  and 
went  into  the  village  with  them,  stopping  all 
who  could  read  and  forcing  them  to  read  the 
letters.  It  was  not  vanity  but  belated  joy  made 
him  brag  all  through  the  village, 

574 


"Aha!  What  do  you  think  of  my  Grisha?"  he 
raised  his  hand  when  the  stumbling  reader 
came  to  the  passage  where  Pyotr  described  Gri- 
gory's  exploit.  "He's  the  first  to  get  the  Cross 
in  our  village,"  he  declared  proudly.  And  jeal- 
ously taking  the  letters,  he  would  thrust  them 
into  the  lining  of  his  cap  and  go  off  in  search 
of  another  reader. 

Even  Sergei  Mokhov,  who  saw  him  through 
his  shop  window,  came  out,  taking  off  his 
cap. 

"Come  in  for  a  minute,  Prokofyevich!" 

Inside,  he  squeezed  the  old  man's  fist  in  his 
own  puffy  white  hand  and  said: 

"Well,  I  congratulate  you;  I  congratulate 
you.  You  must  be  proud  to  have  such  a  son. 
I've  just  been  reading  about  his  exploit  in  the 
newspapers." 

"Is  it  in  the  papers?"  Pantelei's  throat  went 
dry  and  he  swallowed  hard. 

"Yes,  I've  just  read  it." 

Mokhov  took  a  packet  of  the  finest  Turkish 
tobacco  down  from  a  shelf,  and  poured  out 
some  expensive  sweets  into  a  bag  without 
troubling  to  weigh  them.  Handing  the  tobacco 
and  sweets  to  Pantelei,  he  said: 

"When  you  send  Grigory  Panteleyevich  a 
parcel,  send  him  a  greeting  and  these  from 
me." 


575 


"My  God!  What  an  honour  for  Grisha!  The 
whole  village  is  talking  about  him.  I've  lived 
to  see  ..."  the  old  man  muttered,  as  he  went 
down  the  steps  of  the  shop.  He  blew  his  nose 
violently  and  wiped  the  tears  from  his  cheek 
with  his  sleeve,  thinking:  "I'm  getting  old.  Tears 
come  too  easily.  Ah,  Pantelei,  what  has  life 
done  to  you?  You  were  as  hard  as  flint  once, 
you  could  carry  eight  poods  on  your  back  as 
easily  as  a  feather,  but  now.  .  .  .  Grisha's  busi- 
ness has  taken  it  out  of  you  a  bit!" 

As  he  limped  along  the  street,  pressing  the 
bag  of  sweets  to  his  chest,  his  thoughts  again 
fluttered  around  Grigory  like  a  lapwing  over  a 
marsh,  and  the  words  of  Pyotr's  letter  wan- 
dered through  his  mind.  Grigory's  father-in-law 
Korshunov  was  coming  along  the  road,  and  he 
called  to  Pantelei: 

"Hey,  Pantelei,  stop  a  minute!" 

The  two  men  had  not  met  since  the  day  war 
was  declared.  A  cold,  constrained  relationship 
had  arisen  between  them  after  Grigory  left 
home.  Miron  was  annoyed  with  Natalya  for 
humbling  herself  to  Grigory,  and  for  forcing 
her  father  to  endure  a  similar  humiliation. 

"The  wandering  bitch,"  he  would  rail  against 
Natalya  to  his  family.  "Why  can't  she  live  at 
home  instead  of  going  to  her  in-laws.  As  if  they 

576 


fed  her  better  there.  It's  through  her  foolish- 
ness that  her  father  has  to  bear  such  shame  and 
can't  hold  up  his  head  in  the  village." 

Miron  went  straight  up  to  Pantelei  and 
thrust  out  his  oak-coloured  hand: 

"How  are  you?" 

"Thanks  be  to  God.  .  .  ." 

"Been  shopping?" 

Pantelei  shook  his  head.  "These  are  gifts  to 
our  hero.  Sergei  Platonovich  read  about  his 
deed  in  the  peapers  and  has  sent  him  some 
sweets  and  tobacco.  Do  you  know,  the  tears  came 
to  his  eyes,"  the  old  man  boasted,  staring  fixed- 
ly into  Miron's  face  in  the  attempt  to  discover 
what  impression  his  words  had  made. 

The  shadows  gathered  under  Miron's  blond 
eye-lashes,  giving  his  face  a  condescending 
smile. 

"I  see!"  he  croaked,  and  turned  to  cross  the 
street.  Pantelei  hurried  after  him,  opening  the 
bag  and  trembling  with  anger. 

"Here,  try  these  chocolates,  they're  as  sweet 
as  honey,"  he  said  spitefully.  "Try  them,  I 
offer  them  in  my  son's  name.  Your  life  is  none 
too  sweet,  so  you  can  have  one;  and  your  son 
may  earn  such  an  honour  some  day,  but  then  he 
may  not." 

"Don't  pry  into  my  life.  ...  I  know  best 
what  it's  like." 

37—1933  577 


''Just  try  one,  do  me  the  favour."  Pantelei 
bowed  with  exaggerated  affability,  running  in 
front  of  Miron  and  fumbling  with  the  paper 
bag. 

"We're  not  used  to  sweets,"  Miron  pushed 
away  his  hand.  "Gifts  from  strangers  are  bad 
for  our  teeth.  It  was  hardly  decent  of  you  to  go 
begging  alms  for  your  son.  If  you're  in  need, 
you  can  come  to  me.  Our  Natalya's  eating  your 
bread.  We  could  have  given  to  you  in  your  pov- 
erty." 

"Don't  you  tell  those  lies,  no  one  has  ever 
begged  for  alms  in  our  family.  You're  too 
proud,  much  too  proud.  Maybe  it's  because 
you're  so  rich  that  your  daughter  came  to  us." 

"Wait!"  Miron  said  authoritatively.  "There's 
no  point  in  our  quarrelling.  I  didn't  stop  you 
to  have  a  quarrel.  I've  some  business  I  want  to 
talk  over  with  you." 

"We  have  no  business  to  talk  over." 

"Yes,  we  have.  Come  on." 

He  seized  Pantelei's  sleeve  and  dragged  him 
into  a  side-street.  They  walked  out  of  the  vil- 
lage into  the  steppe. 

"Well,  what's  the  business?"  Pantelei  asked 
in  more  amiable  tones.  He  glanced  sidelong  at 
Korshunov's  freckled  face.  Folding  the  tail  of 
his  long  coat  under  him,  Miron  sat  down     on 

578 


the  bank  of  a  ditch  and  pulled  out  his  old  to- 
bacco pouch. 

"You  know,  Prokofyevich,  the  devil  knows 
why  you  went  for  me  like  a  quarrelsome  cock. 
As  it  is,  things  aren't  too  good,  are  they?  I 
want  to  know,"  his  voice  changed  to  a  hard, 
rough  tone,  "how  long  your  son's  going  to 
make  a  laughing-stock  of  Natalya.  Tell  me 
that!" 

"You  must  ask  him  about  it,  not  me." 

"I've  nothing  to  ask  him;  you're  the  head  of 
your  house  and  I'm  talking  to  you." 

Pantelei  squeezed  the  chocolate  he  still  held 
in  his  hand,  and  the  sticky  mess  oozed  through 
his  fingers.  He  wiped  his  palm  on  the 
brown  clay  of  the  bank  and  silently  began  to 
make  a  cigarette,  opening  the  packet  of  Turkish 
tobacco  and  taking  a  pinch.  Then  he  offered 
the  packet  to  Miron.  Korshunov  took  it  with- 
out hesitation  and  made  a  cigarette  from  the 
tobacco  Mokhov  had  presented  so  generously. 
Above  them  hung  a  sumptuous  foaming  white 
cloud,  and  a  tender  thread  stretched  up  to- 
wards it,  wavering  in  the  wind. 

The  day  came  to  its  close.  The  September 
stillness  was  lulled  in  peace  and  inexpressible 
sweetness.  The  sky  had  lost  its  full  summer 
gleam,  and  was  a  hazy  dove  colour.  Apple- 
leaves,    brought     from     God     knows     where, 

37*  579 


scattered  the  ditch  with  vivid  purple.  The  road 
disappeared  over  the  undulating  ridge  of  the 
hill;  in  vain  did  it  beckon  towards  the  unknown 
regions  beyond  the  emerald,  dream-vague 
thread  of  the  horizon.  Held  down  to  their  huts 
and  their  daily  round,  the  people  pined  in  their 
labour,  exhausted  their  strength  on  the  threshing- 
floor;  and  the  road,  a  deserted,  yearning  track, 
flowed  across  the  horizon  into  the  unseen.  The 
wind  trod  along  it,  stirring  up  the  dust. 

"This  is  weak  tobacco,  it's  like  grass,"  Miron 
said,  puffing  out  a  cloud  of  smoke. 

"It's  weak,  but  it's  pleasant,"  Pantelei  half- 
agreed. 

"Give  me  an  answer,  Pantelei,"  Korshunov 
asked  in  a  quieter  tone,  putting  out  his  ciga- 
rette. 

"Grigory  never  says  anything  about  it  in  his 
letters.  He's  wounded  now." 

"Yes,  I've  heard.  .  .  ." 

"What  will  come  after,  I  don't  know.  Maybe 
he'll  be  killed,  and  then  what?" 

"But  how  can  it  go  on  like  this?"  Miron 
blinked  distractedly  and  miserably.  "There  she 
is,  neither  maid  nor  wife  nor  honest  widow, 
and  it's  a  disgrace.  If  I  had  known  it  was  going 
to  turn  out  like  this  I'd  never  have  allowed  the 
match-makers  across  my  threshold.  Ah,  Pante- 

580 


lei .  .  .  Pantelei.  .  .  .  Each  is  sorry  for  his  own 
child.  Blood  is  thicker  than  water." 

"How  can  I  help  it?"  Pantelei  replied  with 
restrained  frenzy.  "Tell  me!  Do  you  think  I'm 
glad  my  son  left  home?  Was  it  any  gain  to  me? 
You  people!" 

"Write  to  him,"  Miron  dictated,  and  the 
dust  trickling  from  under  his  hands  into  the 
ditch  kept  time  with  his  words.  "Let  him  say 
once  and  for  all." 

"He's  got  a  child  by  that.  .  .  ." 

"And  he'll  have  a  child  by  this!"  Korshunov 
shouted,  turning  livid.  "Can  you  treat  a  human 
being  like  that?  Huh?  She's  already  tried  to 
kill  herself  and  is  maimed  for  life. ...  Do  you 
want  to  trample  her  into  the  grave?  Huh.  .  .  . 
His  heart,  his  heart .  .  ."  Miron  hissed,  tearing 
at  his  breast  with  one  hand,  tugging  at  Pante- 
lei's  coat  tails  with  the  other.  "Is  it  a  wolf's 
heart  he's  got?" 

Pantelei  wheezed  and   turned  away. 

"The  woman's  devoted  to  him,  and  there's 
no  other  life  for  her  without  him.  Is  she  a  serf 
in  your  service?" 

"She's  more  than  a  daughter  to  us!  Hold 
your  tongue!"  Pantelei  shouted,  and  he  rose 
from  the  bank. 

They  parted  without  a  word  of  farewell,  and 
went  off  in  different  directions. 

581 


XVIII 

When  swept  out  of  its  normal  channel,  life 
scatters  into  many  streams.  It  is  difficult  to 
foresee  which  it  will  take  in  its  treacherous  and 
winding  course.  Where  today  it  trickles,  like  a 
rivulet  over  sand-banks,  so  shallow  that  the 
shoals  are  visible,  tomorrow  it  will  flow  rich 
and  full. 

Suddenly  Natalya  came  to  the  decision  to  go 
to  Aksinya  at  Yagodnoye,  and  to  ask,  to  be- 
seech her  to  return  Grigory  to  her.  For  some 
reason  it  seemed  to  Natalya  that  everything 
depended  on  Aksinya,  that  she  had  only  to  ask 
her  and  Grigory  would  return,  and  with  him,  her 
own  former  happiness.  She  did  not  stop  to  con- 
sider whether  this  was  possible,  or  how  Aksi- 
nya would  receive  her  strange  request.  Driven 
on  by  subconscious  motives,  she  sought  to  act 
upon  her  decision  as  quickly  as  possible. 

At  the  end  of  the  month  a  letter  arrived  from 
Grigory.  After  messages  to  his  father  and  moth- 
er he  sent  his  greeting  and  regards  to  Natalya. 
Whatever  the  reason  inciting  him  to  this,  it  was 
the  stimulus  Natalya  required,  and  she  made 
ready  to  go  to  Yagodnoye  the  very  next  Sun- 
day. 

"Where    are    you    off  to,    Natalya?"   Dunya 

582 


asked,  watching  her  as  she  attentively  studied 
her  features  in  the  scrap  of  looking-glass. 

"I'm  going  to  visit  my  people,"  Natalya  lied, 
and  blushed  as  she  realized  for  the  first  time 
that  she  was  risking  great  humiliation,  a  ter- 
rible moral  test. 

"You  might  have  an  evening  out  with  me 
just  for  once,"  Darya  suggested.  "Come  this 
evening,  won't  you?" 

"I  don't  know,  but  I  don't  think  so." 

"You  little  nun!  Our  turn  only  comes  when 
our  husbands  are  away,"  Darya  said  with  a  wink 
and  stooped  to  examine  the  embroidered  hem 
of  her  new  pale-blue  skirt.  Darya  had  altered 
considerably  since  Pyotr's  departure.  Unrest 
showed  in  her  eyes,  her  movements  and  car- 
riage. She  arrayed  herself  more  diligently  on 
Sundays,  and  came  back  late  in  the  evening 
sombre-eyed  and  out  of  temper,  to  complain 
to  Natalya: 

"It's  terrible,  really  it  is!  They've  taken  away 
all  the  decent  Cossacks,  and  left  only  boys  and 
old  men  in  the  village!" 

"Well,  what  difference  does  that  make  to 
you?" 

"Why,  there's  nobody  to  lark  about  with  of 
an  evening.  If  only  I  could  go  off  alone  to  the 
mill  one  day.  There's  no  fun  to  be  had  here 
with  our  father-in-law."  And  with  cynical  frank- 

583 


ness  she  asked  Natalya:  "How  can  you  bear 
it,  dear;  so  long  without  a  Cossack?" 

"Shame  on  you!  Haven't  you  any  con- 
science?" Natalya  blushed. 

"Don't  you  feel  any  desire?" 

"It's  clear  you  do." 

"Of  course  I  do!"  Darya  flushed  and 
laughed  and  the  arches  of  her  brows  quivered. 
"Why  should  I  hide  it?  I'd  make  even  an  old 
man  hot  and  bothered  this  very  minute!  Just 
think,  it's  two  months  since  Pyotr  left." 

"You're  laying  up  sorrow  for  yourself,  Da- 
rya." 

"Shut  up,  you  respectable  old  woman!  We 
know  you  quiet  ones!  You  would  never  admit 
it." 

"I've  nothing  to   admit." 

Darya  gave  her  an  amused  sidelong  glance, 
and  bit  her  lips  with  her  small  snappish  teeth. 

"The  other  day  Timofei  Manitsev,  the  ata- 
man's son,  sat  down  beside  me.  I  could  see  he 
was  afraid  to  begin.  Then  he  quietly  slipped 
his  hand  under  my  arm,  and  his  hand  was 
trembling.  I  just  waited  and  said  nothing,  but 
I  was  getting  angry.  If  he  had  been  a  lad  now 
-but  he's  only  a  little  snot.  Sixteen  years  old, 
not  a  day  more.  I  sat  without  speaking,  and  he 
pawed  and  pawed,  and  whispered:  'Come  along 
to  our  shed.'  Then  I  gave  him  something!" 

684 


She  laughed  merrily;  her  brows  quivered  and 
laughter  spurted  from  her  half-closed  eyes. 

"What  a  ticking  off  I  gave  him!  I  jumped  up. 
'Oh,  you  this  and  that!  You  yellow -necked 
whelp!  Do  you  think  you  can  wheedle  me  like 
that?  When  did  you  wet  the  bed  last?'  I  gave 
him  a  fine  talking  to." 

Darya's  attitude  to  Natalya  had  changed  of 
late,  and  their  relations  had  grown  simple  and 
friendly.  The  dislike  which  she  had  felt  for 
the  younger  woman  was  gone,  and  the  two, 
different  in  every  respect,  lived  together  ami- 
cably. 

Natalya  finished  dressing  and  went  out.  Da- 
rya overtook  her  in  the  porch. 

"You'll  open  the  door  for  me  tonight?"  she 
asked. 

"I  expect  I  shall  stop  the  night  with  my  peo- 
ple." 

Darya  thoughtfully  scratched  her  nose  with 
her  comb  and  shook  her  head: 

"Oh,  all  right.  I  didn't  want  to  ask  Dunya, 
but  I  see  I  shall  have  to." 

Natalya  told  Ilyinichna  she  was  going  to  vis- 
it her  people,  and  went  into  the  street.  The 
wagons  were  rattling  away  from  the  market  in 
the  square,  and  the  villagers  were  coming  from 
church.  She  turned  up  a  side  lane  and  hurried- 
ly climbed  the  hill.  At  the  top  she  turned  and 

585 


looked  back.  The  village  lay  flooded  in  sun- 
light, the  little  limewashed  houses  looked  daz- 
zlingly  white,  and  the  sun  glittered  on  the  steep 
roof  of  the  mill,  making  the  sheet-iron  glit- 
ter like  molten  ore. 

XIX 

Yagodnoye  also  had  been  plucked  of  its 
menfolk  by  the  war.  Venyamin  and  Tikhon  had 
gone,  and  the  place  was  even  sleepier,  drearier 
and  more  isolated  than  before.  Aksinya  wait- 
ed on  the  general  in  Venyamin's  place,  while 
fat-bottomed  Lukerya  took  over  all  the  cook- 
ing and  fed  the  fowls.  Old  Sashka  tended  the 
horses  and  looked  after  the  orchard.  There  was 
only  one  new  face,  an  old  Cossack  named  Niki- 
tich  who  had  been  taken  on  as  coachman. 

This  year  old  Listnitsky  sowed  less,  and  sup- 
plied some  twenty  horses  for  army  remounts, 
leaving  only  three  or  four  for  the  needs  of  the 
estate.  He  passed  his  time  shooting  bustards 
and  hunting  with  the  borzois. 

Aksinya  received  only  brief,  infrequent  let- 
ters from  Grigory,  informing  her  that  so  far  he 
was  well  and  going  through  the  grind.  He  had 
grown  stronger,  or  else  he  did  not  want  to  tell 
her  of  his  weakness,  for  he  never  let  slip  any 
complaint  that  he  found  active  service  difficult 

586 


and  dreary.  There  was  a  cold  note  in  his  let 
ters,  as  though  he  had  written  them  because  he 
felt  he  had  to,  and  only  in  one  did  he  write: 
"All  the  time  at  the  front,  and  I'm  fed  up  with 
fighting  and  carrying  death  on  my  back."  In 
every  letter  he  asked  after  his  daughter,  telling 
Aksinya  to  write  about  her. 

Aksinya  seemed  to  bear  the  separation  brave- 
ly. All  her  love  for  Grigory  was  poured  out 
on  her  child,  especially  after  she  became  con- 
vinced that  it  was  really  his.  Life  gave  irrefu- 
table proofs  of  that:  the  girl's  chestnut  hair 
was  replaced  by  a  black,  curly  growth;  her 
eyes  changed  to  a  dark  tint,  and  grew  elongated 
in  their  slits.  With  every  day  she  became  more 
and  more  like  her  father;  even  her  smile  was 
Grigory's.  Now  Aksinya  could  see  him  beyond 
all  doubt  in  the  child,  and  her  feeling  for  it 
deepened.  No  longer  did  she  start  back  from  the 
cradle,  as  she  sometimes  had  before,  thinking 
she  discerned  in  the  child's  sleeping  face  some 
likeness  to  the  hated  features  of  Stepan. 

But  the  days  crawled  on,  and  at  the  end  of 
each  a  caustic  bitterness  settled  in  Aksinya's 
breast.  Anxiety  for  the  life  of  her  beloved 
pierced  her  mind  like  a  sharp  needle;  it  left  her 
neither  day  nor  night.  Restrained  during  the 
hours  of  labour,  it  burst  all  dams  at  night,  and 
she  tossed  and    turned,    weeping    soundlessly 

5S7 


and  biting  her  hand  to  avoid  awakening  the 
child  with  her  sobs;  she  tried  to  kill  her  mental 
anguish  with  a  physical  pain.  She  wept  the 
rest  of  her  tears  into  the  baby's  napkins,  th.ink- 
ing  in  her  childish  naivete:  "It's  Grisha's  child, 
he  must  feel  in  his  heart  how  I  yearn  for  him." 

After  nights  such  as  this  she  arose  in  the 
morning  as  though  she  had  been  beaten  unmerci- 
fully. All  her  body  ached,  little  silver  hammers 
knocked  incessantly  in  her  veins,  and  sorrow 
lurked  in  the  corners  of  her  lips.  The  nights  of 
yearning  aged  Aksinya. 

One  Sunday  she  had  given  her  master  his 
breakfast,  and  was  standing  on  the  steps  when 
she  saw  a  woman  approaching  the  gate.  The 
eyes  under  the  white  kerchief  seemed  strange- 
ly familiar.  The  v/oman  opened  the  gate  and 
entered  the  yard.  Aksinya  turned  pale  as  she 
recognized  Natalya.  She  slowly  went  to  meet 
her.  A  heavy  layer  of  dust  had  settled  on  Na- 
talya's  shoes.  She  halted,  her  big,  toil-rough- 
ened hands  hanging  lifelessly  at  her  sides,  and 
breathed  heavily,  trying  to  straighten  her 
scarred  neck  and  failing,  so  that  it  seemed  she 
looked  sideways.  "I've  come  to  see  you,  Aksi- 
nya," she  said,  running  her  dry  tongue  over 
her  lips. 

Aksinya  gave  a  swift  glance  at  the  windows 
of  the  house  and  silently  led  Natalya  into  her 

58$ 


room.  Natalya  followed  her.  To  her  straining 
ears  the  rustle  of  Aksinya's  skirt  seemed  unna- 
turally loud.  "There's  something  wrong  with 
my  ears,  it  must  be  the  heat,"  the  confused 
thought  scratched  at  her  brain  with  a  host  of 
others. 

Aksinya  closed  the  door,  and  standing  in  the 
middle  of  the  room  with  her  hands  under  her 
apron,  took  charge  of  the  situation. 

"What  have  you  come  for?"  she  asked 
stealthily,  almost  in  a  whisper, 

"I'd  like  a  drink,"  Natalya  replied,  staring 
heavily  about  the  room, 

Aksinya  waited.  Natalya  began  to  speak, 
with  difficulty  raising  her  voice: 

"You've  taken  my  husband  from  me.  .  .  .  Give 
me  my  Grigory  back.  You've  broken  m.y  life. 
You  see  how.  .  .  ." 

"You  want  your  husband?"  Aksinya  clenched 
her  teeth,  and  the  words  fell  steadily  like  slow 
raindrops  on  stone.  "You  want  your  husband? 
Who  are  you  asking?  Why  did  you  come? 
You've  thought  of  it  too  late.  Too  late!" 

Laughing  caustically,  her  whole  body  sway- 
ing, Aksinya  went  close  up  to  Natalya.  She 
sneered  as  she  stared  in  the  face  of  her  enemy. 
There  she  stood,  the  lawful  but  abandoned 
wife,  humiliated,  crushed  with  misery.  She  who 
had  come  between  Aksinya  and  Grigory,  sep- 

589 


arating  them,  causing  a  bloody  pain  in  Aksi- 
nya's  heart.  And  while  she  had  been  wearing 
herself  out  with  mortal  longing,  this  other  one, 
this  Natalya,  had  been  caressing  Grigory  and 
no  doubt  laughing  at  her,  the  unsuccessful, 
forsaken  mistress. 

"And  you've  come  to  ask  me  to  give  him 
up?"  Aksinya  panted.  "You  creeping  snake! 
You  took  Grisha  away  from  me  first!  You  knew 
he  was  living  with  me.  Why  did  you  marry 
him?  I  only  took  back  my  own.  He's  mine.  I 
have  a  child  by  him,  but  you. . . ." 

With  stormy  hatred  she  stared  into  Natalya's 
eyes,  and,  waving  her  arms  wildly,  poured  out 
a  boiling  torrent  of  words. 

"Grisha's  mine,  and  I'll  give  him  up  to  no 
one!  He's  mine,  mine!  D'you  hear...?  Mine! 
Clear  out,  you  shameless  bitch,  you're  not  his 
wife.  You  want  to  rob  a  child  of  its  father? 
And  why  didn't  you  come  before?  Well,  why 
didn't  you  come  before?" 

Natalya  went  sideways  to  the  bench  and  sat 
down,  dropping  her  head  and  covering  her  face 
with  her  hands. 

"You  left  your  husband.  Don't  shout  like 
that." 

"I  have  no  husband  but  Grisha.  No  one,  no- 
where in  the  whole  world."  Feeling  an  anger 
that  could  not  find  vent  raging  within  her,  Ak- 

590 


sinya  gazed  at  the  strand  of  black  hair  that  had 
slipped  from  under  Natalya's  kerchief. 

"Does  he  need  you?"  she  demanded,  "Look 
at  your  twisted  neck!  And  do  you  think  he 
longs  for  you?  He  left  you  when  you  were  well, 
and  is  he  likely  to  look  at  a  cripple?  I  won't 
give  Grisha  up!  That's  all  I  have  to  say.  Clear 
out!" 

Aksinya  grew  ferocious  in  defence  of  her 
nest,  in  revenge  for  all  the  suffering  of  the  past. 
She  could  see  that,  despite  the  slightly  crooked 
neck,  Natalya  was  as  good-looking  as  before. 
Natalya's  cheeks  and  lips  were  fresh,  untouched 
by  time,  while  her  own  eyes  were  webbed 
with  wrinkles,  and  all  because  of  Natalya. 

"Do  you  think  I  had  any  hope  of  getting 
him  back  by  asking?"  Natalya  raised  her  eyes, 
drunk  with  suffering, 

"Then  why  did  you  come?"  Aksinya  panted. 

"My  yearning  drove  me  on," 

Awakened  by  the  voices,  Aksinya's  daugh- 
ter stirred  in  the  bed  and  broke  into  a  cry. 
The  mother  took  up  the  child,  and  sat  down 
with  her  face  to  the  window.  Trembling  in  ev- 
ery limb,  Natalya  gazed  at  the  infant.  A  dry 
spasm  clutched  her  throat.  Grigory's  eyes  stared 
at  her  inquisitively  from  the  baby's  face. 

Weeping  and  swaying,  she  walked  out 
into  the  porch.  Aksinya  did  not  see    her  off. 

591 


A  minute  or  two  later  Sashka  came  into  the 
room. 

"Who  was  that  woman?"  he  asked,  evidently 
half-guessing. 

"Someone  from  our  village." 

Natalya  walked  back  about  three  versts,  and 
then  lay  down  under  a  wild  thorn.  Crushed  by 
her  yearning,  she  lay  thinking  of  nothing. 
Grigory's  gloomy  black  eyes  staring  cut  of  a 
child's  face  were  continually  before  her. 

XX 

So  vivid  that  it  was  almost  a  blinding  pain, 
the  night  after  the  battle  remained  for  ever  im- 
printed in  Grigory's  memory.  He  returned  to 
consciousness  some  time  before  dawn;  his 
hands  stirred  among  the  prickly  stubble,  and 
he  groaned  with  the  pain  that  filled  his  head. 
With  an  effort  he  raised  his  hand,  drew  it  up 
to  his  brow,  and  felt  his  blood-clotted  hair. 
When  his  finger  touched  the  wound  it  was  as 
if  a  red-hot  ember  had  been  placed  there.  Then, 
grinding  his  teeth,  he  rolled  over.  Above  him 
the  frost-nipped  leaves  of  a  tree  rustled  mourn- 
fully with  a  glassy  tinkle.  The  black  branches 
were  clearly  outlined  against  the  deep  blue 
background  of    the    sky,    and    stars    glittered 

592 


among  them.  Grigory  gazed  unwinkingly,  and 
the  stars  seemed  to  him  like  strange,  bluish- 
yellow  fruits  hanging  from  the  twigs. 

Realizing  what  had  happened  to  him,  and 
conscious  of  an  inescapable  horror,  he  crawled 
away  on  all  fours,  grinding  his  teeth.  The 
pain  played  with  him,  threw  him  down  head- 
long. He  seemed  to  be  crawling  for  an  eterni- 
ty. He  forced  himself  to  look  back;  the  tree 
stood  out  blackly  some  fifty  paces  away.  Once 
he  crawled  across  a  corpse,  resting  his  el- 
bows on  the  dead  man's  hard,  sunken  belly. 
He  was  sick  with  loss  of  blood,  and  he  wept 
like  a  babe,  and  chewed  the  dewy  grass  to 
avoid  losing  consciousness.  By  an  overturned 
case  of  shells  he  managed  to  get  on  to  his  feet, 
and  stood  a  long  time  swaying,  then  started 
to  walk.  His  strength  began  to  return;  he 
stepped  out  more  firmly,  and  was  even  able  to 
take  his  bearings  by  the  Great  Bear,  moving 
in  an  easterly  direction. 

At  the  edge  of  the  forest  he  was  halted  by 
a  sudden  warning  shout: 

"Stop,  or  I'll  fire!" 

He  heard  the  click  of  a  revolver,  and  looked 
in  the  direction  of  the  sound.  A  man  was  lean- 
ing against  a  pine-tree, 

"Who  are  you?"  he  asked,  listening  to  the 
sound  of  his  voice  as  though  it  were  another's. 

38—1933  593 


"A  Russian?  My  God!  Come  here!"  the  man 
by  the  pine  slipped  to  the  ground.  Grigory 
went  to  him. 

"Bend  down!" 

"I  can't."  I 

"Why  not?" 

"I  shall  fall  and  not  be  able  to  get  up  again. 
I'm  wounded  in  the  head." 

"What  regiment  are  you   from?" 

"The  Twelfth  Don  Cossack." 

"Help  me,  Cossack!" 

"I  shall  fall.  Your  Honour,"  Grigory  re- 
plied, recognizing  the  man  as  an  officer  by  his 
shoulder-straps. 

"Give  me  your  hand  at  least," 

Grigory  helped  the  officer  to  rise,  and  they 
went  off  together.  But  with  every  step  the  of- 
ficer himg  more  heavily  on  his  arm.  As  they 
rose  out  of  a  dell  he  seized  Grigory  by  the 
sleeve  and  said: 

"Leave  me,  Cossack.  I've  got  a  woimd  . , . 
right  through  the  stomach." 

His  eyes  were  dull  behind  his  pince-nez  and 
the  breath  came  from  his  open  bearded  mouth 
in  hoarse  gasps.  He  fainted,  but  Grigory  dragged 
him  along,  falling  and  rising  again  and 
again.  Twice  he  dropped  his  burden  and  left 
it;  but  each  time  he  returned,  lifted  it,  and 
stumbled  on  as  if  walking  in  his  sleep. 

594 


At  eleven  o'clock  they  were  picked  up  by  a 
patrol  and  taken  to  a  dressing  station. 

Grigory  slipped  away  from  the  station  the 
very  next  day.  Once  on  the  road  he  tore  the 
bandage  from  his  head,  and  walked  along  wav- 
ing the  blood-soaked  bandage  in  his  relief. 

"Where  have  you  come  from?"  his  squadron 
commander  asked  him  in  amazement,  when  he 
turned  up  at  regimental  headquarters. 

"I've  returned  to  duty.  Your  Honour." 

When  he  left  the  squadron  commander,  Gri- 
gory saw  his  troop  sergeant. 

"My  horse  .  .  .  the  bay,  where  is  it?" 

"He's  all  right,  lad.  We  caught  him  as  soon 
as  we  had  finished  with  the  Austrians.  But 
what  about  you?  We  were  praying  for  you  to 
go  to  heaven." 

"You  were  in  a  hurry,"  Grigory  said  with 
a  grim  smile. 

An  extract  from  regimental  orders  read  as 

follows :  )  1 

"For  saving  the  life  of  the  commander  of 
the  9th  regiment  of  dragoons  Lieutenant-Colo- 
nel Gustav  Grozberg,  Cossack  of  the  12th  Don 
Cossack  Regiment  Melekhov  Grigory  is  pro- 
moted to  the  rank  of  corporal  and  recommend- 
ed for  the  St.  George  Cross,  4th  class." 

Grigory 's  squadron  had  halted  in  Kamenka- 
Strumilovo  for  two  days,  and  were  now  pre- 

38*  595 


paring  to  advance  again.  Grigory  found  the 
house  in  which  the  Cossacks  of  his  troop  were 
quartered,  and  went  to  see  to  his  horse.  His 
towels  and  some  underlinen  were  missing  from 
his  saddle-bags. 

"Stolen  before  my  very  eyes,  Grigory," 
Misha  Koshevoi  admitted  guiltily.  "There  was 
a  swarm  of  infantry  quartered  here,  and  they 
stole  them." 

"Well,  they  can  keep  them,  damn  them!  Only 
I  want  to  bandage  my  head." 

"You  can  take  my  towel." 

Uryupin  came  into  the  shed  where  they  were 
standing.  He  held  out  his  hand  as  though  the 
quarrel  between  him  and  Grigory  had  never 
occurred. 

"Hullo,  Melekhov!  So  you're  still  alive!" 

"More  or  less." 

"Your  head's   all  bleeding.  Wipe   yourself." 

"I  will  in  my  own  time." 

"Let's  have  a  look  at  what  they've  done  to 
you."  • 

He  forced  back  Grigory's  head,  and  snorted: 

"Why  did  you  let  them  cut  your  hair  off? 
What  a  sight  you  are!  The  doctors  won't  help 
you  any.  Let  me  heal  you." 

Without  waiting  for  Grigory's  consent  he 
drew  a  cartridge  out  of  his  cartridge-case,  broke 

596 


the  bullet  open  and  poured  the  black  pow- 
der into  his  hand. 

"Misha,  find  me  a  spider's  web." 

With  the  point  of  his  sabre  Koshevoi  scraped 
a  web  from  a  beam  and  handed  it  to  Uryupin. 
With  the  same  sabre  Uryupin  dug  up  some 
earth  and,  mixing  it  with  the  web  and  the 
powder,  chewed  it  between  his  teeth.  Then  he 
plastered  the  sticky  mess  over  the  bleeding 
wound  and  smiled: 

"It'll  be  all  right  again  in  three  days,"  he  de- 
clared. "But  here  I  am  looking  after  you,  and 
yet  you  would  have  killed  me." 

"Thanks  for  looking  after  me,  but  if  I'd  killed 
you  I'd  have  had  one  sin  the  less  on  my 
conscience." 

"What  a  simpleton  you  are,  lad." 

"Maybe.  What's  my  head  look  like?" 

"There's  a  cut  half  an  inch  deep.  Something  to 
remember  them  by." 

"I  shan't  forget  them." 

"You  couldn't  if  you  wanted  to;  the  Austrians 
don't  sharpen  their  swords  properly  so  you'll 
have  a  scar  for  the  rest  of  your  life." 

"Lucky  for  you,  Grigory,  that  he  got  you  on 
the  slant,  or  you'd  have  been  buried  on  foreign 
soil,"  said  Koshevoi  with  a  smile. 

"What  shall  I  do  with  my  cap?" 

597 


Grigory  twisted  his  hacked  and  blood-stained 
cap  confusedly  in  his  hands. 

"Throw  it  away,  the  dogs  will  eat  it." 

"The  grub's  arrived,  lads.  Come  and  get  it!" 
came  a  shout  from  the  door  of  the  house. 

The  Cossacks  left  the  shed.  Grigory's  bay 
horse  whinnied  after  him,  turning  up  the  whites 
of  his  eyes. 

"He  pined  after  you,  Grigory,"  Koshevoi 
nodded  to  the  horse.  "I  was  surprised,  he 
wouldn't  eat,  and  whinnied  all  the  time." 

"When  I  crawled  away  I  kept  calling  him," 
Grigory  said  in  a  thick  voice.  "I  was  sure  he 
wouldn't  leave  me,  and  I  knew  it  wouldn't  be 
easy  for  a  stranger  to  catch  him." 

"That's  true.  We  only  just  managed  to  get 
him  with  a  lasso." 

"He's  a  good  horse.  He's  my  brother  Pyotr's." 
Grigory  turned  his  back  to  hide  his  wet  eyes. 

They  went  into  the  house.  Yegor  Zharkov 
was  lying  asleep  on  a  spring  mattress  in  the 
front-room.  An  indescribable  disorder  silently 
bore  witness  to  the  haste  with  which  the  owners 
had  left  the  place.  Fragments  of  broken  uten- 
sils, torn  paper,  books,  scraps  of  material,  chil- 
dren's toys,  old  boots,  scattered  flour  were  all 
tumbled  in  confusion  about  the  floor. 

Yemelyan  Groshev  and  Prokhor  Zykov  had 
cleared  a  space  in  the  middle  of  the  room,  and 

598 


were  eating  their  dinner.  At  the  sight  of  Gri- 
gory,  Prokhor's  calf  eyes  nearly  dropped  out 
of  his  head. 

"Grisha!  Where  did  you  spring  from?" 

"From  the  other  world!" 

"Run  and  get  him  some  grub.  Don't  stare  like 
that!"  Uryupin  shouted, 

"Won't  be  a  minute.  The  kitchen's  just  round 
the  comer." 

Prokhor  ran  to  the  door,  chewing  as  he  went. 
Grigory  sat  down  wearily  in  his  place.  "I  don't 
remember  when  I  ate  last,"  he  smiled  guiltily. 

Units  of  the  Third  Corps  were  moving  through 
the  town.  The  narrow  streets  were  choked  with 
infantry,  baggage  trains  and  cavalry,  the  cross- 
roads were  jammed  and  the  noise  of  the  traffic 
penetrated  even  through  the  closed  doors  of 
the  houses.  Prokhor  quickly  returned  with  a 
pot  of  soup  and  a  pan  of  buckwheat. 

"What  shall  I  pour  the  grub  into?" 

Not  knowing  its  purpose,  Groshev  picked  up 
a  chamber-pot,  remarking:  "Here's  a  pot  with 
a  handle." 

"Your  pot  stinks,"  Prokhor  said  with  a  frown. 

"Never  mind.  Pour  it  out  and  we'll  share  it 
afterwards." 

Zykov  turned  the  basket  upside  down  over 
the  vessel,  and  the  rich,  thick  gruel  fell  out  in 

599 


a  mass,  with  an  amber  edge  of  fat  round  it. 
They  ate  and  talked. 

"There's  a  battery  of  a  highland  mounted 
artillery  battalion  next  door,"  Prokhor  related, 
dabbing  spittle  over  a  grease  spot  on  the  stripe 
of  his  trousers.  "They're  feeding  up  their 
horses.  Their  warrant  officer  read  in  the  paper 
that  the  Germans'  allies  were  doing  a  bunk." 

"You  should've  been  here  this  morning,  Me- 
lekhov,"  Uryupin  muttered  through  a  mouth- 
ful of  gruel:  "We  were  thanked  by  the  division 
commander  himself.  He  reviewed  us  and  thanked 
us  for  smashing  the  Hungarian  hussars  and 
saving  the  battery.  'Cossacks,'  he  said,  'the  tsar 
and  the  fatherland  will  not  forget  you.'  " 

As  he  spoke  there  was  the  sound  of  a  shot 
outside,  and  a  machine-gun  began  to  stutter. 
Dropping  their  spoons,  the  Cossacks  ran  out. 
Overhead  an  aeroplane  was  circling  low  with 
a  menacing  roar. 

"Lie  down  under  the  fence.  They'll  be  drop- 
ping a  bomb  in  a  minute.  There's  a  battery  billet- 
ed next  door  to  us,"  Uryupin  shouted.  "Some- 
one go  and  wake  Yegor  up.  He'll  get  killed  on 
his  soft  mattress!" 

"Bring  out  the  rifles." 

Aiming  carefully,  Uryupin  fired  from  the 
steps. 

Soldiers  ran  along  the  street,  for  some  rea- 

600 


son  ducking  their  heads.  From  the  next  yard 
came  the  neighing  of  horses  and  a  curt  order. 
Grigory  glanced  over  the  fence;  the  gunners 
were  hurriedly  wheeling  a  gun  into  a  shed. 
Screwing  up  his  eyes  at  the  prickly  blue  of  the 
sky,  he  stared  at  the  roaring,  swooping  bird. 
At  that  moment  something  fell  away  from  it 
and  glittered  sharply  in  the  sunlight. 

A  shattering  roar  shook  the  house  and  the 
Cossacks  crouching  round  the  steps;  in  the  next 
yard  a  horse  neighed  in  mortal  agony.  A  pungent 
wave  of  powder  smoke  drifted  over  the  fence. 

"Lie  flat,"  Uryupin  shouted  rushing  down 
the  steps.  Grigory  sprang  after  him,  and  they 
threw  themselves  down  by  the  palings.  One 
wing  of  the  aeroplane  glittered  as  it  turned. 
From  the  street  came  irregular  shots.  Grigory 
had  just  thrust  a  fresh  clip  of  cartridges  into 
the  magazine  of  his  rifle  when  a  shattering  ex- 
plosion threw  him  six  feet  away  from  the  fence. 
A  lump  of  earth  struck  him  heavily  on  the 
head,  filling  his  eyes  with  dust. 

Uryupin  lifted  him  to  his  feet.  A  sharp  pain 
in  the  left  eye  prevented  Grigory  from  seeing. 
With  difficulty  opening  the  right  eyelid,  he  saw 
that  half  the  house  was  demolished;  the  bricks 
lay  in  a  misshapen  heap,  a  pink  cloud  of  dust 
hovering  over  them. 

As  he  stood  staring,  Yegor  Zharkov  crawled 

601 


from  under  the  steps.  His  entire  face  was  a  cry; 
bloody  tears  were  raining  from  his  eyes  that 
had  been  forced  out  of  their  sockets.  With  his 
head  buried  in  his  shoulders  he  crawled  along, 
screaming  without  opening  his  blackening  lips. 

Behind  him  one  leg,  torn  away  at  the  thigh, 
was  dragged  along  by  a  shred  of  skin  and  a 
strip  of  scorched  trouser;  the  other  leg  was 
gone  completely.  He  crawled  slowly  along  on 
his  hands,  a  thin,  almost  childish  scream  com- 
ing from  his  lips.  Then  the  scream  stopped  and 
he  fell  over  on  his  side,  pressing  his  face  to 
the  harsh,  unkind,  brick-  and  dung-littered 
earth.  No  one  attempted  to  go  to  him. 

"Pick  him  up!"  Grigory  shouted,  still  press- 
ing his  hand  to  his  left  eye. 

Infantrymen  ran  into  the  yard;  a  two- 
wheeled  cart  with  telephone  operators  stopped 
at  the  gate. 

"Keep  moving!"  an  officer  shouted  at  them 
as  he  galloped  past.  "Don't  stand  there 
gaping!"  Two  women,  and  an  old  man  in  a 
long  black  coat  came  up.  Zharkov  was  quickly 
surrounded  by  a  little  crowd.  Pressing  through 
them,  Grigory  saw  that  he  was  still  breathing, 
whimpering  and  violently  trembling.  Great 
beads  of  sweat  stood  out  on  his  deathly  yellow 
brow. 

"Pick  him  up!  What  are  you,  men  or  devils?" 

602 


"What  are  you  howling  about?"  a  tall  in- 
fantryman snapped.  "Pick  him  up,  pick  him 
up!  But  where  are  we  to  take  him  to?  Can't  you 
see  he's  dying?" 

"Both  legs  gone!" 

"Look  at  the  blood!" 

"Where  are  the  stretcher-bearers?" 

"What  good  could  they  do!" 

"And  he's  still  conscious." 

Uryupin  touched  Grigory  on  the  shoulder 
from  behind.  "Don't  move  him,"  he  whispered. 
"Come  round  the  other  side  and  look." 

He  drew  Grigory  along  by  the  sleeve,  and 
pushed  the  crowd  aside.  Grigory  took  one 
glance,  then  hunched  his  shoulders  and  turned 
away  to  the  gate.  Under  Zharkov's  belly  the  pink 
and  blue  intestines  were  steaming.  The  tangled 
mass  lay  on  the  sand,  stirring  and  swelling.  Be- 
side it  the  dying  man's  hand  scrabbled  at  the 
ground. 

"Cover  his  face,"  someone  proposed. 

Zharkov  suddenly  raised  himself  on  his 
hands  and,  throwing  his  head  back  until  it 
hung  between  his  shoulder-blades,  shouted  in 
a  hoarse,  inhuman  voice: 

"Brothers,  kill  me. .  , .  Brothers  .  .  . !  What  are 
you  standing  looking  for . .  ,?  Oh. . . .  Oh  .... 
Brothers,  kill  me!" 


603 


XXI  : 

The  railway  carriage  rocked  gently  and  the 
knock  of  its  wheels  was  lullingly  drowsy.  A 
yellow  band  of  light  streamed  from  the  lan- 
tern. It  was  good  to  be  stretched  out  at  full 
length,  with  boots  off,  giving  the  feet  their 
freedom,  to  feel  no  responsibility  for  oneself, 
to  know  that  no  danger  threatened  one's  life, 
and  that  death  was  so  far  away.  It  was  espe- 
cially pleasant  to  listen  to  the  varying  chatter 
of  the  wheels,  for  with  their  every  turn,  with 
every  tug  of  the  engine,  the  front  was  farther 
and  farther  off.  And  Grigory  lay  listening, 
wriggling  the  toes  of  his  bare  feet,  all  his  body 
rejoicing  in  the  fresh,  clean  linen.  He  felt  as 
though  he  had  thrown  off  a  dirty  skin,  and, 
spotlessly  clean,  was  entering  a  new  life. 

His  quiet,  tranquil  jojy  was  disturbed  only 
by  the  pain  in  his  left  eye.  It  died  away  occa- 
sionally, then  would  suddenly  return,  burning 
the  eye  and  forcing  involuntary  tears  under  the 
bandage.  In  the  field  hospital  a  young  Jewish 
doctor  had  examined  his  eye  and  had  told  him: 
"You'll  have  to  go  back.  Your  eye  is  in  a  very 
unsatisfactory  state." 

"Shall  I  lose  it,  doctor?" 

"Why  should  you  think  that?"  the  doctor 
smiled,  catching  the  unconcealed  alarm  in  Gri- 

604 


gory's  voice.  "But  you  must  have  it  attended 
to,  and  an  operation  may  be  necessary.  We 
shall  send  you  to  Petrograd  or  Moscow.  Don't 
be  afraid,  your  eye  will  be  all  right."  He 
clapped  Grigory  on  the  shoulder  and  gently 
drew  him  outside  into  the  corridor.  As  he 
turned  back  he  rolled  up  his  sleeves  in  readi- 
ness for  an  operation. 

After  much  hanging  about  Grigory  found 
himself  in  a  hospital  train.  He  lay  for  days  on 
end,  enjoying  the  blessed  peace.  The  ancient 
engine  exerted  all  its  strength  to  haul  the  long 
line  of  carriages.  They  drew  near  to  Moscow, 
and  arrived  at  night.  The  serious  cases  were 
carried  out  on  stretchers;  those  who  could  walk 
were  assembled  on  the  platform.  The  doctor 
accompanying  the  train  called  out  Grigory's 
name  and  handed  him  over  to  a  nurse,  instruct- 
ing her  as  to  his  destination. 

"Have  you  got  your  luggage  with  you?" 
-    "What  luggage  do  you  expect  a  Cossack  to 
have?  A  greatcoat  and  a  field-bag,  that's  all." 

"Follow  me." 

The  nurse  led  the  way  out  of  the  station,  her 
dress  rustling.  Grigory  walked  uncertainly  be- 
hind her.  They  took  a  cab.  The  roar  of  the 
great  city,  the  jangle  of  tram-bells,  the  bluish 
gleam  of  electric  lights  had  a  crushing  effect 
upon  him.  He  leaned  against  the  back  of  the 

605 


cab,  staring  inquisitively  at  the  crowded  streets, 
and  it  was  strange  for  him  to  feel  the  agitating 
warmth  of  a  woman's  body  at  his  side.  Autumn 
had  arrived  in  Moscow.  Along  the  boulevards 
the  leaves  of  the  trees  gleamed  yellow  in  the 
lamplight,  the  night  breathed  a  wintry  chill, 
the  pavements  were  shining,  and  above  him 
the  stars  were  autumnally  clear  and  cold.  From 
the  centre  of  the  town  they  turned  into  a  desert- 
ed side-street.  The  horse's  hoofs  clattered  over 
the  cobbles;  the  driver  in  his  long  blue  coat 
swayed  on  his  high  seat  and  waved  the  ends 
of  the  reins  at  his  mare.  Railway  engines  whis- 
tled in  the  distance.  "Perhaps  a  train  just  off  to 
the  Don,"  Grigory  thought,  pricked  with  yearn- 
ing. 

"Feeling  sleepy?"  the  nurse  asked. 

"No." 

"We  shall  soon  be  there." 

The  waters  of  a  pond  gleamed  oilily  behind 
an  iron  railing,  Grigory  caught  a  glimpse  of  a 
railed-off  landing  stage  with  a  boat  tied  to  it. 
There  was  a  smell  of  dampness  in  the  air. 

"They  even  keep  water  behind  iron  bars 
here,  not  like  our  Don  . . ."  Grigory  thought 
vaguely.  Leaves  rustled  under  the  rubber  tyres 
of  the  cab. 

They  stopped  outside  a  three-storied  house. 
Grigory  jumped  out. 

606 


"Give  me  your  hand,"  the  nurse  said,  bend- 
ing towards  him.  He  took  her  small,  soft  hand 
in  his  and  helped  her  to  alight. 

"You  smell  of  soldiers'  sweat,"  she  laughed 
quietly,  ringing  the  bell. 

"You  ought  to  spend  some  time  out  there, 
nurse,  then  you  might  stink  of  something  else," 
Grigory  replied  with  suppressed  anger. 

The  door  was  opened  by  a  porter.  They  went 
up  a  gilt  balustraded  staircase  to  the  first  floor. 
Passing  into  an  ante-room,  Grigory  sat  down 
at  a  round  table  while  the  nurse  whispered 
something  to  a  woman  in  a  white  smock. 

Faces  wearing  spectacles  of  various  colours 
appeared  round  the  doors  that  lined  both  sides 
of  the  long  narrow  corridor. 

After  a  few  minutes  an  orderly,  also  dressed 
in  white,  led  him  to  a  bathroom. 

"Strip!" 

"What  for?" 

"You've  got  to  have  a  bath." 

While  Grigory  was  undressing  and  looking 
round  in  astonishment  at  the  bathroom  with 
its  frosted-glass  windows  the  orderly  filled  the 
bath  with  water,  measured  the  temperature, 
and  told  him  to  get  in, 

"This  tub  won't  do  for  me,"  Grigory  mut- 
tered, lifting  a  swarthy  leg  into  the  bath. 

The   orderly   assisted   him  to   wash   himself 

607 


thoroughly,  then  gave  him  a  towel,  linen,  house- 
shoes,  and  a  grey,  belted  dressing-gown. 

"What  about  my  clothes?"  Grigory  asked  in 
amazement. 

"You'll  wear  these  while  you're  here.  Your 
clothes  will  be  returned  to  you  when  you're 
discharged  from  the  hospital." 

As  Grigory  passed  a  wall  mirror  he  did  not 
recognize  himself.  Tall,  dark  of  face,  with 
patches  of  crimson  on  his  cheeks  and  a  growth 
of  moustache  and  beard,  in  a  dressing-gown, 
his  black  hair  pressed  down  under  a  bandage, 
he  bore  only  a  distant  resemblance  to  the  for- 
mer Grigory  Melekhov.  "I've  grown  young- 
er," he  thought,  smiling  wanly  to  himself. 

"Ward  six,  third  door  on  the  right,"  the 
attendant  told  him. 

As  Grigory  entered  the  large  white  room  a 
priest  in  a  hospital  gown  and  dark  glasses  half 
rose. 

"Ah,  a  neighbour?  Glad  to  meet  you,  we 
shall  keep  each  other  company.  I  am  from 
Zaraisk,"  he  announced  sociably,  offering  Gri- 
gory a  chair. 

A  few  minutes  later  a  corpulent  nurse  with  a 
large,  plain  face  opened  the  door. 

"Melekhov,  we  want  to  have  a  look  at  your 
eye,"  she  said  in  a  low,  chesty  voice,  and  stood 
aside  to  let  him  pass. 

608 


XXII 

The  army  command  decided  on  a  big  cav- 
alry attack  on  the  south-west  front  with  a 
view  to  breaking  through  the  enemy  lines,  des- 
troying their  communications  and  disorganiz- 
ing their  forces  with  sudden  assaults  from  the 
rear.  The  command  set  great  store  by  the  plan, 
and  large  forces  of  cavalry  were  concentrated 
in  the  area,  Yevgeny  Listnitsky's  regiment 
among  them.  The  attack  was  to  have  begun  on 
August  28th,  but  a  rain  storm  caused  it  to  be 
postponed  until  the  following  day. 

Early  in  the  morning  the  division  was  de- 
ployed over  a  huge  area  in  preparation  for  the 
offensive. 

About  eight  versts  away  the  infantry  on  the 
right  flank  made  a  demonstrative  attack  to 
draw  the  fire  of  the  enemy.  Also  sections  of 
one  cavalry  division  were  dispatched  in  a 
misleading  direction. 

In  front  of  Listnitsky's  regiment  there  was 
no  sign  whatever  of  the  enemy.  About  a  verst 
away  Yevgeny  could  see  deserted  lines  of 
trenches,  and  behind  them  rye  fields  billowing 
in  a  wind-driven,  bluish  early  morning  mist.  The 
enemy  must  have  learned  of  the  attack  in  prep- 
aration, for  during  the  night  they  had  retired 

39—1933  609 


some  six  versts,  leaving  only  machine-gun 
nests  to  harass  the  attackers. 

Behind  heavy  rainclouds  the  sun  was  rising. 
The  entire  valley  was  flooded  with  a  creamy 
yellow  mist.  The  order  came  for  the  offensive 
to  begin,  and  the  regiments  advanced.  Thou- 
sands of  horses'  hoofs  set  up  a  rumbling  roar 
that  sounded  as  though  it  came  from  under  the 
ground.  Listnitsky  reined  in  his  horse  to  pre- 
vent it  from  breaking  into  a  gallop.  A  verst  was 
covered,  and  the  level  lines  of  attacking  forces 
drew  near  to  the  fields  of  grain.  The  rye,  higher 
than  a  man's  waist  and  entangled  with  twining 
plants  and  grasses,  rendered  the  cavalry's  prog- 
ress extremely  difficult.  Before  them  still  waved 
the  ruddy  heads  of  rye,  behind  them  it  lay 
crushed  and  trampled  down  by  hoofs.  After 
four  versts  of  such  riding  the  horses  began  to 
stumble  and  sweat,  but  still  there  was  no  sign 
of  the  enemy.  Listnitsky  glanced  at  his  squad- 
ron commander;  the  captain's  face  wore  an 
expression  of  utter  despair. 

Six  versts  of  terribly  heavy  going  took  all 
the  strength  out  of  the  horses;  some  of  them 
dropped  under  their  riders,  even  the  strongest 
stumbled,  exerting  all  their  strength  to  keep 
moving.  Now  the  Austrian  machine-guns  be- 
gan to  work,  spraying  a  hail  of  bullets.  The 
rifle  fire  came  in  volleys.  The  murderous  fire 

610 


mowed  down  the  leading  ranks.  A  regiment  of 
lancers  was  the  first  to  falter  and  turn;  a  Cos- 
sack regiment  broke.  A  rain  of  machine-gun 
bullets  lashed  them  into  panic-stricken  flight. 
Owing  to  the  criminal  negligence  of  the  High 
Command,  this  extraordinarily  extensive  attack 
was  overwhelmed  with  complete  defeat.  Some 
of  the  regiments  lost  half  their  complement  of 
men  and  horses.  Four  hundred  Cossacks  and 
sixteen  officers  were  killed  and  wounded  in 
Listnitsky's  regiment  alone. 

Listnitsky's  own  horse  was  killed  under  him, 
and  he  himself  was  wounded  in  the  head  and 
the  leg.  A  sergeant-major  leaped  from  his  horse 
and  picked  him  up,  flung  him  over  his  sad- 
dle-bow and  galloped  back  with  him. 

The  chief  of  staff  of  the  division.  Staff  Colonel 
Golovachev,  took  several  snap-shots  of  the 
attack,  and  afterwards  showed  them  to  some 
officers.  A  wounded  lieutenant  struck  him  in 
the  face  with  his  fist  and  burst  into  tears.  Then 
Cossacks  ran  up  and  tore  Golovachev  to  pieces, 
made  game  of  his  corpse,  and  finally  threw  it 
into  the  mud  of  a  roadside  ditch.  So  ended  this 
brilliantly  inglorious  offensive. 

From  a  hospital  in  Warsaw  Yevgeny  informed 
his  father  that  he  had  been  given  leave 
and  was  coming  down  to  Yagodnoye.  The  old 
man  shut  himself  up  in  his  room,  and  came  out 

39*  611  ' 


again  only  the  next  day.  He  ordered  Nikitich, 
the  coachman,  to  harness  the  trotting  horse  to 
the  drozhki,  had  breakfast,  and  drove  to 
Vyeshenskaya.  There  he  telegraphed  four 
hundred  rubles  to  his  son  and  sent  him  a  short 
letter. 

I  am  very  glad,  my  dear  boy,  that  you  have 
received  your  baptism  of  Bre.  The  nobleman's 
place  is  out  there,  not  in  the  palace.  You  are 
much  too  honest  and  clever  to  be  able  to  cringe 
with  a  peaceful  conscience.  Nobody  in  our 
family  has  ever  done  that.  For  that  reason,  your 
grandfather  lost  favour  and  died  in  Yagodnoye, 
neither  hoping  for  nor  awaiting  grace  from  the 
Emperor.  Take  care  of  yourself,  Yevgeny,  and 
get  well.  Remember,  you  are  all  I  have  in  the 
world.  Your  aunt  sends  her  love.  She  is  well. 
As  for  myself,  I  have  nothing  to  write.  You 
know  how  I  live.  How  can  things  at  the  front 
be  as  they  are?  Is  it  possible  that  we  have  no 
people  with  common  sense"?  I  don't  believe  the 
newspaper  reports.  They  are  all  lies,  as  I  know 
from  past  years.  Is  it  possible,  Yevgeny,  that 
we  shall  lose  the  campaign?  I  am  impatiently 
awaiting  you  at  home. 

True,  there  was  nothing  in  old  Listnitsky's 
life  to  write  about.  It  dragged    on    as  before, 

612 


without  variation;  only  the  cost  of  labour  rose, 
and  there  was  a  shortage  of  liquor.  The  master 
drank  more  frequently,  and  grew  more  irritable 
and  fault-finding.  One  day  he  summoned 
Aksinya  to  him  and  complained: 

"You're  not  attending  to  your  duties.  Why 
was  the  breakfast  cold  yesterday?  Why  wasn't 
the  glass  properly  cleaned?  If  it  happens  again 
I  shall  discharge  you.  I  can't  stand  slovenliness. 
D'you  hear?" 

Aksinya  pressed  her  lips  together  and  burst 
into  tears. 

"Nikolai  Alexeyevich!  My  daughter  is  ill.  Let 
me  have  time  to  attend  to  her.  I  can't  leave 
her." 

"What's  the  matter  with  the  child?" 

"She  seems  to  be  choking." 

"What?  Scarlet  fever?  Why  didn't  you  speak 
before,  you  fool?  Run  and  tell  Nikitich  to  drive 
to  Vyeshenskaya  for  the  doctor.  Hurry!" 

Aksinya  ran  out,  the  old  man  bombarding 
her  the  while,  with  his  deep  bass  voice: 

"You  fool  of  a  woman,  fool!" 

Nikitich  brought  the  doctor  back  the  next 
morning.  He  examined  the  unconscious,  feverish 
child,  and  without  replying  to  Aksinya's  en- 
treaties went  straight  to  the  master.  The  old 
man  received  him  in  the  ante-room. 

613 


"Well,  what's  wrong  with  the  child?"  he 
asked,  acknowledging  the  doctor's  greeting 
with  a  careless  nod. 

"Scarlet  fever.  Your  Excellency!" 

"Will  it  get  better?  Any  hope?" 

"Very  little.  It's  dying.  Think  of  its  age." 

"You  fool!"  The  old  man  turned  livid.  "What 
did  you  study  medicine  for?  Cure  her!"  He 
slammed  the  door  in  the  doctor's  face  and  paced 
up  and  down  the  hall. 

Aksinya  knocked  and  entered.  "The  doctor 
wants  horses  to  take  him  to  Vyeshenskaya." 

The  old  man  turned  on  his  heel.  "Tell  him 
he's  a  blockhead!  Tell  him  he  doesn't  leave  this 
place  until  the  child  is  well.  Give  him  a  room 
and  feed  him  to  his  heart's  content.  But  he 
won't  go  away,"  he  shouted,  shaking  his  bony 
fist.  He  strode  over  to  the  window,  drummed 
with  his  fingers  for  a  minute,  and  then,  turning 
to  a  photograph  of  his  son  as  a  baby  in  his 
nurse's  arms,  stepped  back  two  paces  and 
stared  hard  at  it,  as  though  unable  to  recognize 
the  child. 

As  soon  as  her  child  had  fallen  ill  Aksinya 
had  decided  that  God  was  punishing  her  for 
taunting  Natalya.  Crushed  with  fear  for  the 
child's  life,  she  lost  control  of  herself,  wandered 
aimlessly  about,  and  could  not  work.  "Surely 
Cod  won't  take  her!"  the  feverish  thought  beat 

614 


incessantly  in  her  brain,  and  not  believing, 
with  all  her  might  trying  not  to  believe,  that 
the  child  would  die,  she  prayed  frantically  to 
God  for  his  last  mercy,  that  its  life  might  be 
spared. 

But  the  fever  was  choking  the  little  life.  The 
girl  lay  flat  on  her  back,  the  breath  coming  in 
little  hoarse  gasps  from  her  swollen  throat.  The 
doctor  attended  her  four  times  a  day,  and 
stood  of  an  evening  smoking  on  the  steps  of  the 
servants'  quarters,  gazing  up  at  the  cold  sprin- 
kling of  autumn  stars. 

All  night  Aksinya  remained  on  her  knees  by 
the  bed.  The  child's  gurgling  rattle  wrung  her 
heart. 

"Mama .  .  ."  whispered  the  small  parched 
lips. 

"My  little  one,  my  little  daughter,"  she 
groaned;  "my  flower,  don't  go  away,  Tanya. 
Look,  my  pretty  one,  open  your  little  eyes, 
come  back.  My  dark-eyed  darling!  Why,  oh 
Lord  .  .  .?" 

Occasionally  the  child  opened  its  inflamed 
lids,  and  the  bloodshot  eyes  gave  her  a  waver- 
ing glance.  The  mother  caught  at  the  glance 
greedily.  It  seemed  to  be  withdrawn  into  itself, 
yearning,  resigned. 

She  died  in  her  mother's  arms.  For  the  last 
time  the  little  mouth  gaped,  and  the  body  was 

615 


racked  with  a  convulsion.  The  tiny  head  fell 
back  on  its  mother's  arm,  and  the  little  Mele- 
khov  eyes  gazed  with  an  astonished,  sombre 
stare. 

Old  Sashka  dug  a  small  grave  under  an  old 
poplar  by  the  lake,  carried  the  coffin  to  the 
grave  and  with  unwonted  haste  covered  it  with 
earth,  then  waited  long  and  patiently  for 
Aksinya  to  rise  from  the  clayey  mound.  When 
he  could  wait  no  longer,  he  blew  his  nose  vio- 
lently and  went  off  to  the  stables.  He  drew  a 
bottle  of  eau-de-Cologne  and  a  little  flagon  of 
denatured  alcohol  out  of  a  manger,  mixed  the 
spirits  in  a  bottle,  and  muttered  as  he  held  the 
concoction  up  to  the  light: 

"In  memory!  May  the  heavenly  kingdom 
open  its  gates  to  the  little  one!  The  angel  is 
dead."  He  drank  and  shook  his  head  wildly  as 
he  bit  into  a  soft  pickled  tomato;  then  staring 
tenderly  at  the  bottle,  he  said: 

"Don't  forget  me,  dear,  and  I'll  never  forget 
you!"  and  burst  into  tears. 

Three  weeks  later  Yevgeny  Listnitsky  sent  a 
telegram  saying  he  was  on  his  way  home.  A 
troika  of  horses  was  sent  to  meet  him  at  the 
station,  and  everybody  on  the  estate  was  on 
tiptoe  with  expectation.  Turkeys  and  geese  were 
killed,  and  old  Sashka  flayed  a  sheep.  The  prep- 
arations were  elaborate  enough  for     a  grand 

616 


ball.  The  young  master  arrived  at  night.  A 
freezing  rain  was  falling,  and  the  lamps  flung 
little  fugitive  beams  of  light  into  the  puddles. 
The  horses  drew  up  at  the  steps,  their  bells  jan- 
gling. Throwing  his  warm  cloak  to  Sashka, 
Yevgeny,  limping  slightly  and  very  agitated, 
walked  up  the  steps.  His  father  hastened  to 
meet  him,  sending  the  chairs  flying  in  his  prog- 
ress. 

Aksinya  served  supper  in  the  dining-room, 
and  went  to  summon  them  to  table.  Looking 
through  the  keyhole,  she  saw  the  old  man  em- 
bracing and  kissing  his  son  on  the  shoulder; 
the  loose  flesh  of  the  old  man's  neck  was  quiv- 
ering. Waiting  a  few  minutes,  she  looked 
again.  This  time  Yevgeny  was  on  his  knees 
before  a  great  map  spread  out  on  the  floor. 
The  old  man,  puffing  clouds  of  smoke  from 
his  pipe,  was  knocking  with  his  knuckles  on 
the  arm  of  a  chair  and  roaring  indignantly: 

"Alexeyev?  It  can't  be!  I  don't  believe  it!" 

Yevgeny  replied  quietly,  persuasively  run- 
ning his  fingers  over  the  map. 

The  old  man  answered  in  a  deep  steady 
voice:  "In  that  case  the  commander-in-chief 
was  in  the  wrong.  Complete  lack  of  vision. 
Look,  Yevgeny,  I'll  give  you  a  similar  instance 
from  the  Russo-Japanese  campaign.  Let  me! 
Let  me!" 

617 


Aksinya  knocked.  The  old  man  came  out 
animated  and  gay,  with  his  eyes  glittering 
youthfully.  With  his  son  he  drank  a  bottle  of 
wine  of  1879  vintage.  As  Aksinya  waited  on 
them  and  observed  their  cheerful  faces,  she 
felt  her  own  loneliness  all  the  more  keenly.  An 
unwept  yearning  tortured  her.  After  the  death 
of  the  child  she  had  wanted  to  weep,  but  tears 
would  not  come.  A  cry  came  to  her  throat,  but 
her  eyes  were  dry,  and  so  the  stony  grief  op- 
pressed her  doubly.  She  slept  a  great  deal, 
seeking  relief  in  a  drowsy  oblivion,  but  the 
child's  call  reached  her  even  in  sleep.  She 
imagined  the  infant  was  asleep  at  her  side,  and 
she  turned  over  and  groped  about  the  bed,  hear- 
ing the  whispered:  "Mama,  mama."  "My 
darling,"  she  would  answer  with  icy  lips.  Even 
in  the  oppressive  light  of  day  she  sometimes 
imagined  that  the  child  was  at  her  knee,  and 
she  caught  herself  reaching  out  her  hand  to 
stroke  the  curly  head. 

The  third  day  after  his  arrival  Yevgeny  sat 
until  late  in  the  evening  with  old  Sashka  in 
the  stables,  listening  to  his  artless  stories  of  the 
free  life  the  Don  Cossacks  had  led  in  bygone 
days.  He  left  him  at  nine  o'clock.  A  sharp  wind 
was  blowing  through  the  yard;  the  mud 
squelched  slushily  underfoot.  A  young,  yellow- 
whiskered  moon  pranced  among  the  clouds.  By 

618 


its  light  Yevgeny  looked  at  his  watch,  and 
turned  towards  the  servants'  quarters.  He 
stopped  by  the  steps  to  light  a  cigarette,  stood 
thinking  for  a  moment,  then,  shrugging  his 
shoulders,  resolutely  mounted  the  steps.  He 
cautiously  lifted  the  latch  and  opened  the  door, 
passed  through  into  Aksinya's  room,  and  struck 
a  match. 

"Who's  there?"  she  asked,  drawing  the 
blanket  around  her. 

"It's  only  me." 

"I'll  be  dressed  in  a  minute." 

"Don't  trouble.  I  shall  only  stop  for  a  moment 
or  two." 

He  threw  off  his  overcoat  and  sat  down  on 
the  edge  of  the  bed. 

"So  your  little  girl  died.  .  .  ." 

"Yes,  she  died  .  .  ."  Aksinya  exclaimed 
echoingly. 

"You've  changed  considerably.  I  can  guess 
what  the  loss  of  the  child  meant  to  you.  But  I 
think  you're  torturing  yourself  uselessly;  you 
can't  bring  her  back,  and  you're  still  young 
enough  to  have  children.  Take  yourself  in  hand 
and  be  reconciled  to  the  loss.  After  all,  you 
haven't  lost  everything.  All  your  life  is  still 
before  you." 

He  pressed  her  hand  and  stroked  her  caress- 
ingly yet   authoritatively,   playing  on  the  low 

619 


tones  of  his  voice.  He  dropped  his  voice  to  a 
whisper  and,  hearing  Aksinya's  stifled  weeping, 
began  to  kiss  her  wet  cheeks  and  eyes. 

Woman's  heart  is  susceptible  to  pity  and 
kindness.  Burdened  with  her  despair,  not 
realizing  what  she  was  doing,  Aksinya  yielded 
herself  to  him  with  all  her  strong,  long  dor- 
mant passion.  But  as  the  devastating,  madden- 
ing wave  of  delight  abated  she  came  to  her 
senses  and  cried  out  sharply;  losing  all  sense 
of  reason  or  shame  she  ran  out  half-naked,  in 
only  her  shift,  on  to  the  steps.  Yevgeny  hastily 
followed  her  out,  leaving  the  door  open,  pull- 
ing on  his  overcoat  as  he  went.  As  he  mounted 
the  steps  to  the  terrace  of  the  house  he  smiled 
joyfully  and  contentedly. 

Lying  in  his  bed,  rubbing  his  soft  plump 
chest,  he  thought:  "From  the  point  of  view  of 
an  honest  man,  what  I  have  done  is  shameful, 
immoral.  Grigory,  ...  I  have  robbed  my  neigh- 
bour; but  after  all,  I  have  risked  my  life  at 
the  front.  If  the  bullet  had  been  a  little  more 
to  the  right  it  would  have  gone  through  my 
head  and  I  should  have  been  feeding  the  worms 
now.  These  days  one  has  to  live  passionately 
for  each  moment  as  it  comes.  I  am  allowed  to 
do  anything."  He  was  momentarily  horrified 
by  his  own  thoughts;  but  his  imagination  again 
conjured  up  the  terrible  moment  of  attack,  and 

620 


how  he  had  raised  himself  from  his  dead  horse 
only  to  fall  again,  shot  down  by  bullets.  As 
he  dropped  off  to  sleep  he  decided:  "Time 
enough  for  this  tom.orrow,  but  now  to  rest." 

Next  morning,  finding  himself  alone  with 
Aksinya  in  the  dining-room,  he  went  towards 
her,  a  guilty  smile  on  his  face.  But  she  pressed 
against  the  wall  and  stretched  out  her  hands, 
scorching  him  with  her  frenzied  whisper: 

"Keep  away,  you  devil!" 

Life  dictates  its  own  unwritten  laws  to  man. 
Within  three  days  Yevgeny  went  again  to 
Aksinya  at  night,  and  she  did  not  refuse  him. 

XXIII  ! 

A  small  garden  was  attached  to  the  eye 
hospital.  There  are  many  such  clipped,  uninvit- 
ing gardens  on  the  outskirts  of  Moscow,  where 
the  eye  finds  no  rest  from  the  stony,  heavy 
dreariness  of  the  city,  and  as  one  looks  at 
them  the  memory  recalls  still  more  sharply 
and  painfully  the  wild  freedom  of  the  forest. 
Autumn  reigned  in  the  hospital  garden.  The 
paths  were  covered  with  leaves  of  orange  and 
bronze,  a  morning  frost  crumpled  the  flowers 
and  flooded  the  patches  of  grass  with  a  watery 
green.  On  fine  days  the  patients  wandered 
along  the  paths,  listening  to  the  church  bells 

621 


of  pious  Moscow.  When  the  weather  was  bad 
(and  such  days  were  frequent  that  year)  they 
wandered  from  room  to  room  or  lay  silently 
on  their  beds,  boring  themselves  and  one 
another. 

The  civilian  patients  were  in  the  majority  in 
the  hospital,  and  the  wounded  soldiers  were 
accommodated  in  one  room.  There  were  five  of 
them:  Jan  Vareikis,  a  tall,  ruddy-faced,  blue- 
eyed  Latvian;  Ivan  Vrublevsky,  a  handsome 
young  dragoon  from  the  Vladimir  Province;  a 
Siberian  rifleman  named  Kosykh;  a  restless 
little  yellow  soldier  called  Burdin,  and  Grigory. 
At  the  end  of  September  another  was  added  to 
the  number. 

While  they  were  drinking  their  evening  tea 
they  heard  a  long  ring  at  the  bell.  Grigory 
looked  out  into  the  corridor.  Three  people  had 
entered  the  hall,  a  nurse  and  a  man  in  a  long 
Caucasian  coat  holding  a  third  man  under  the 
armpits.  The  man's  dirty  soldier's  tunic  with 
dark  blood-stains  on  the  chest  indicated  that 
he  had  only  just  arrived  from  the  station.  He 
was  operated  on  the  same  evening.  A  few 
minutes  after  he  had  been  taken  into  the  operat- 
ing theatre,  the  other  patients  heard  the  muffled 
sound  of  singing.  While  he  was  under  chloro- 
form and  the  surgeon  was  removing  the  re- 
mains of  one  eye,  which  had  been  shattered  by 

622 


a  shell  splinter,  he  sang  and  uttered  unintel- 
ligible curses.  After  the  operation  he  was 
brought  into  the  ward.  When  the  effects  of  the 
chloroform  passed,  he  informed  the  others 
that  he  had  been  wounded  on  the  German 
front,  that  his  name  was  Garanzha,  and  that 
he  was  a  machine-gunner,  a  Ukrainian  from 
Chernigov  Province.  He  made  a  particvilar 
friend  of  Grigory,  whose  bed  was  next  to  his, 
and  after  the  evening  inspection  they  would 
talk  a  long  time  in  undertones. 

"Well,    Cossack,   how    goes    it?"    he    opened 
their  first  conversation. 

"Rotten." 

"Going  to  lose  your  eye?" 

"I'm  having  injections." 

"How  many  have  you  had?" 

"Eighteen  so  far." 

"Does  it  hurt?" 

"No,  I  enjoy  it." 

"Ask  them  to  cut  the  eye  right  out." 

"What  for?  Not  everybody  has  to  be  one- 
eyed." 

"That's  so." 

Grigory's  jaundiced,  venomous  neighbour 
was  discontented  with  everything.  He  cursed 
the  government,  the  war,  his  own  lot,  the 
hospital  food,  the  cook,  the  doctors,  everything 
he  could  lay  his  tongue  to. 

623 


"What  did  we,  you  and  I,  go  to  war  for, 
that's  what  I  want  to  know?" 

"For  the  same  reason  everybody  else  did." 

"Hah!  You're  a  fool!  I've  got  to  chew  it  all 
over  for  you!  It's  the  bourgeoisie  we're  fighting 
for,  don't  you  see?  What  are  the  bourgeoisie? 
They're  birds  among  the  fruit-trees." 

He  explained  the  difficult  words  to  Grigory, 
peppering  his  speech  with  invective.  "Don't 
talk  so  fast.  I  can't  understand  your  Ukrainian 
lingo.  Speak  slower,"  Grigory  would  interrupt 
him. 

"I'm  not  talking  so  quick  as  that,  my  boy. 
You  think  you're  fighting  for  the  tsar,  but  what 
is  the  tsar?  The  tsar's  a  grabber,  and  the 
tsaritsa's  a  whore,  and  they're  both  a  weight 
on  our  backs.  Don't  you  see?  The  factory-owner 
drinks  vodka,  while  the  soldier  kills  the  lice. 
The  factory-owner  takes  the  profit,  the  worker 
goes  bare.  That's  the  system  we've  got.  Serve 
on,  Cossack,  serve  on!  You'll  earn  another 
cross,  a  good  one,  made  of  oak." 

He  spoke  in  Ukrainian,  but  on  the  rare  oc- 
casions when  he  grew  excited,  he  would  break 
into  pure  Russian  generously  sprinkled  with 
invective. 

Day  after  day  he  revealed  truths  hitherto 
unknown  to  Grigory,  explaining  the  real 
causes  of  war,  and  jesting  bitterly  at  the  auto- 

624 


cratic  government.  Grigory  tried  to  raise  objec- 
tions, but  Garanzha  silenced  him  with  simple, 
murderously  simple  questions,  and  he  was 
forced  to  agree. 

Most  terrible  of  all,  Grigory  began  to  think 
Garanzha  was  right,  and  that  he  was  impotent 
to  oppose  him.  He  realized  with  horror  that  the 
intelligent  and  bitter  Ukrainian  was  gradually 
but  surely  destroying  all  his  former  ideas 
about  the  tsar,  the  country,  and  his  own 
military  duty  as  a  Cossack.  Within  a  month  of 
the  Ukrainian's  arrival  the  whole  system  on 
which  Grigory's  life  had  been  based  was  a 
smoking  ruin.  It  had  already  grown  rotten, 
eaten  up  with  the  canker  of  the  monstrous 
absurdity  of  the  war,  and  it  needed  only  a  jolt. 
That  jolt  was  given,  and  Grigory's  artless 
straightforward  mind  awoke.  He  tossed  about 
seeking  a  way  out,  a  solution  to  his  predica- 
ment, and  gladly  found  it  in  Garanzha's 
answers. 

Late  one  night  Grigory  rose  from  his  bed 
and  awoke  Garanzha.  He  sat  on  the  edge  of  the 
Ukrainian's  bed.  The  greenish  light  of  the 
September  moon  streamed  through  the  window. 
Garanzha's  cheeks  were  dark  with  furrows, 
the  black  sockets  of  his  eyes  gleamed  humidly. 
He  yawned  and  wrapped  his  legs  in  the 
blanket. 

40—1933  625 


"Why  aren't  you  asleep?" 

"I  can't  sleep,"  Grigory  replied.  "Tell  me 
this  one  thing.  War  is  good  for  one  and  bad  for 
another,  isn't  it?" 

"Well?"  the   Ukrainian  yawned. 

"Wait!"  Grigory  whispered,  blazing  with 
anger.  "You  say  we  are  being  driven  to  death 
for  the  benefit  of  the  rich.  But  what  about 
the  people?  Don't  they  understand?  Aren't 
there  any  who  could  tell  them,  who  could 
go  and  say:  'Brothers,  this  is  what  you  are 
dying  for'?" 

"How  could  they?  Tell  me  that!  Supposing 
you  did.  Here  we  are  whispering  like  geese  in 
the  reeds,  but  talk  out  loud,  and  they'll  have  a 
bullet  ready  for  you.  The  people  are  deep  in 
ignorance.  The  war  will  wake  them  up.  After 
the  thunder  comes  the  storm." 

"But  what's  to  be  done  about  it?  Tell  me, 
you  snake!  You've  stirred  up  my  heart." 

"And  what  does  your  heart  tell  you?" 

"I  can't  understand  what  it's  saying,"  Grigory 
confessed. 

"The  man  who  tries  to  push  me  over  the 
brink  will  get  pushed  over  himself.  We 
mustn't  be  afraid  to  turn  our  rifles  against  them. 
We  must  shoot  the  ones  who're  sending  the 
people  into  hell."  Garanzha  rose  in  his  bed 
and,  grinding  his  teeth,  stretched  out  his  hand: 

626 


"A  great  wave  will  rise  and  sweep  them  all 
away." 

"So  you  think  everything  has  to  be  turned 
upside  down?" 

"Yes!  The  government  must  be  thrown  aside 
like  an  old  rag.  The  lords  must  be  stripped  of 
their  fleece,  for  they've  been  murdering  the 
people  too  long  already." 

"And  what  will  you  do  with  the  war  when 
you've  got  the  new  government?  We'll  still 
go  on  scrapping,  and  if  we  don't,  then  our 
children  will.  How  are  you  going  to  root  out 
war,  when  men  have  fought  for  ages?" 

"It's  true,  war  has  gone  on  since  the  begin- 
ning of  time,  and  will  go  on  so  long  as  we  don't 
$weep  away  the  evil  government.  But  when 
every  government  is  a  workers'  government 
they  won't  fight  any  more.  That's  what's  got  to 
be  done.  And  it  shall  be  done,  may  the  devil 
bury  them!  It  shall  be.  And  when  the  Germans, 
and  the  French  and  all  the  others  have  got  a 
workers'  and  peasants'  government,  what 
shall  we  have  to  fight  about  then?  Away  with 
frontiers,  away  with  anger!  One  beautiful  life 
all  over  the  world.  Ah.  . .  !"  Garanzha  sighed, 
and,  twisting  the  ends  of  his  whiskers,  his  one 
eye  glittering,  smiled  dreamily.  "Grisha, 
I'd  pour  out  my  blood  drop  by  drop  to  live  to 
see  that  day." 

40*  627 


They  talked  on  until  the  dawn  came.  In  the 
grey  shadows  Grigory  fell  into  a  troubled 
sleep. 

In  the  morning  they  were  awakened  by  the 
sound  of  talking  and  a  voice  crying.  Ivan 
Vrublevsky  was  lying  face  downwards  on  the 
bed  sobbing,  while  round  him  stood  the  nurse, 
Jan  Vareikis  and  Kosykh. 

"What's  he  howling  for?"  Burdin  grunted, 
poking  his  head  out  from  under  the  bed- 
clothes. 

"He's  broken  his  eye.  He  was  just  taking 
it  out  of  the  glass  and  it  dropped  on  the  floor," 
Kosykh  answered  with  more  malice  than 
sympathy. 

A  Russified  German,  a  seller  of  false  eyes, 
had  been  moved  by  patriotic  feelings  to  supply 
the  army  with  his  products  free  of  charge.  The 
day  before,  Vrublevsky  had  been  fitted  out 
with  a  glass  eye  made  so  skilfully  that  it  looked 
just  as  blue  and  handsome  as  the  real  one.  The 
work  was  so  perfect  that  even  close  examina- 
tion could  not  distinguish  the  imitation  from 
the  genuine.  Vrublevsky  had  been  laughing 
and  happy  as  a  child  over  it. 

"I'll  go  home,"  he  said  in  his  broad  Volga 
accent,  "and  catch  any  girl  I  like.  I'll  get 
married,  then  I'll  confess  that  my  eye's  a  glass 
one." 

628 


"He  will,  too,  the  devil!"  chuckled  Burdin. 

And  now  an  accident  had  happened  and  the 
handsome  young  man  would  return  to  his  vil- 
lage a  one-eyed  cripple. 

"They'll  give  you  a  new  one,  don't  howl/', 
Grigory  consoled  him. 

Vrublevsky  raised  his  tear-stained  face  from 
the  pillow,   revealing  the  empty  socket. 

"No,  they  won't.  That  eye  cost  three  hundred 
rubles.  They'll  never  give  me  a  new  one." 

"And  what  an  eye  it  was!  Every  little  line 
was  there!"  Kosykh  gloated. 

After  breakfast  Vrublevsky  went  off  with 
the  nurse  to  the  German's  shop  and  the  Ger- 
man gave  him  a  new  eye, 

"Why,  the  Germans  are  better  than  the 
Russians!"  Vrublevsky  exclaimed,  wild  with 
joy.  "A  Russian  merchant  wouldn't  give  you 
a  kopeck,  but  this  one  gives  me  a  new  eye 
without  a  murmur." 

September  passed.  The  days  dragged  by  in- 
terminably, filled  with  deadly  boredom.  In 
the  morning  at  nine  o'clock  the  patients  were 
served  tea-two  miserable,  transparent  slices 
of  French  bread,  and  a  knob  of  butter  the  size 
of  a  finger-nail.  After  dinner  they  were  still 
hungry.  In  the  evening  they  had  tea  again, 
sipping  cold  water  with  it  to  break  the 
monotony.  The  patients  in  the    military    ward 

629 


changed.  First  the  Siberian  went,  then  the 
Latvian.  At  the  end  of  October  Grigory  was 
discharged. 

The  hospital  surgeon  examined  Grigory's 
eyes  and  pronounced  their  sight  satisfactory. 
But  he  was  transferred  to  another  hospital,  as 
the  wound  in  his  head  had  unexpectedly  opened 
and  was  suppurating  slightly.  As  he  said  good- 
bye to  Garanzha,  Grigory  remarked; 

"Shall  we  be  meeting  again?" 

"Two   mountains  never  meet,  but.  .  .  ." 

"Well,  khokhol,  thank  you  for  opening 
my  eyes.  I  can  see  now,  and  I'm  not  good  to 
know." 

"When  you  get  back  to  your  regiment  tell 
the  Cossacks  what  I've  told  you." 

"I  will." 

"And  if  you  ever  happen  to  be  in  Chernigov 
District,  in  Gorokhovka,  ask  for  the  smith 
Andrei  Garanzha,  I'll  be  glad  to  see  you.  So 
long,  boy." 

They  embraced.  The  picture  of  the  Ukrainian, 
with  his  one  eye,  and  pleasant  lines  running 
from  his  mouth  across  his  sandy  cheeks,  re- 
mained long  in  Grigory's  memory. 

Grigory  spent  ten  days  in  the  second 
hospital.  He  nursed  unformulated  decisions  in 
his  mind.  The  jaundice  of  Garanzha's  teaching 
was  working  within  him.  He  talked  but   little 

630 


with  his  neighbours  in  the  ward,  and  a  certain 
confusion  and  alarm  was  manifest  in  all  his 
movements. 

"A  restless  fellow,"  was  the  appraisal  the 
head  doctor  gave  him,  glancing  hurriedly  at 
his  non-Russian  face  during  the  first  examina- 
tion. 

For  the  first  few  days  Grigory  was  feverish, 
and  lay  in  his  bed  listening  to  the  ringing  in 
his  ears. 

Then  an  incident  occurred. 

A  high  personage,  one  of  the  imperial  family, 
came  to  pay  a  visit  to  the  hospital.  Informed 
of  this  in  the  morning,  the  staff  of  the  hospital 
scurried  about  like  mice  in  a  burning  granary. 
They  redressed  the  wounded,  changed  the  bed- 
clothes before  the  time  appointed,  and  one 
young  doctor  even  tried  to  instruct  the  men 
how  to  reply  to  the  personage  and  how  to 
conduct  themselves  in  conversation  with  him. 
The  anxiety  was  communicated  to  the  patients 
also,  and  some  of  them  began  to  talk  in 
whispers  long  before  the  time  fixed  for  the 
visit.  At  noon  a  motor  horn  sounded  at  the 
front  door,  and  accompanied  by  the  usual 
number  of  officials  and  officers,  the  personage 
passed  through  the  hospital  portals. 

One  of  the  wounded,  a  gay  fellow  and  a 
joker,  assured  his  fellow    patients    afterwards 

63 1 


that  at  the  moment  of  the  distinguished 
visitors'  entry  the  Red  Cross  flag  hanging 
outside  the  hospital  suddenly  began  to  flutter 
furiously,  although  the  weather  was  unusually 
fine  and  still,  while  on  the  other  side  of  the 
street  the  dandy  with  elegant  curls  portrayed 
on  a  hairdresser's  signboard  actually  made  a 
low  bow. 

The  distinguished  personage  went  the  round 
of  the  wards,  asking  the  usual  absurd  ques- 
tions befitting  one  of  his  position  and  circum- 
stances. The  wounded,  their  eyes  staring  out  of 
their  heads,  replied  in  accordance  with  the  in- 
structions of  the  junior  surgeon.  "Just  so.  Your 
Imperial  Highness,"  and  "Not  at  all.  Your 
Imperial  Highness."  The  chief  surgeon  supplied 
commentaries  to  their  answers,  squirming  like 
a  grass-snake  pierced  by  a  fork;  he  was  a 
pitiful  sight  even  from  afar.  The  regal  per- 
sonage distributed  little  icons  to  the  soldiers. 
The  throng  of  brilliant  uniforms  and  the  heavy 
wave  of  expensive  perfumes  rolled  towards 
Grigory.  He  stood  by  his  bed,  unshaven,  gaunt, 
with  feverish  eyes.  The  slight  tremor  of  the 
brown  skin  over  his  angular  cheek-bones  re- 
vealed his  agitation. 

"There  they  are!"  he  was  thinking.  "There 
are  the  people  who  get  pleasure  out  of  driv- 
ing us  from  our  native  villages  and  flinging  us 

632 


to  death.  Ah!  The  swine!  Curse  them!  There 
are  the  lice  on  our  backs.  Was  it  for  them  we 
trampled  other  people's  grain  with  our  horses 
and  killed  strangers?  And  I  crawled  over  the 
stubble  and  shouted?  And  our  fear?  They 
dragged  us  away  from  our  families,  starved  us 
in  barracks."  The  burning  thoughts  choked  his 
brain.  His  lips  quivered  with  fury.  "Look  at 
their  fat  shining  faces!  I'd  send  you  out  there, 
curse  you.  Put  you  on  a  horse,  with  a  rifle  on 
your  back,  load  you  with  lice,  feed  you  on 
rotten  bread  and  maggoty  meat!" 

Grigory's  eyes  bored  into  the  sleek-faced 
officers  of  the  retinue,  and  rested  on  the 
marsupial  cheeks  of  the  royal  personage. 

"A  Don  Cossack,  Cross  of  St.  George,"  the 
chief  surgeon  smirked  as  he  pointed  to  Grigory, 
and  from  the  tone  of  his  voice  one  would 
have  thought  it  was  he  who  had  won  the 
cross. 

"From  what  district?"  the  personage  in- 
quired, holding  an  icon  ready, 

"Vyeshenskaya,    Your    Imperial    Highness." 

"How  did  you  win  the  cross?" 

Boredom  and  satiety  lurked  in  the  clear, 
empty  eyes  of  the  royal  personage.  His  left 
eyebrow  was  artificially  raised,  in  a  manner 
intended  to  give  his  face  greater  expression. 
For  a  moment  Grigory  felt  cold,  and  a  queer 

41—1933  633 


chopping  sensation  went  on  inside  him.  He  had 
felt  a  similar  sensation  when  going  into  attack. 
His  lips  twisted  and  quivered  irresistibly. 

"Excuse  me.  ...  I  badly  want  to. . ,  .  Your 
Imperial.  .  . .  Just  a  little  need."  Grigory  swayed 
as  though  his  back  were  broken,  and  pointed 
under  the  bed. 

The  personage's  left  eyebrow  rose  still 
higher.  The  hand  holding  the  icon  half-extend- 
ed towards  Grigory  froze  stiffly.  His  flabby 
lips  gaping  with  astonishment,  the  personage 
turned  to  a  grey-haired  general  at  his  side  and 
asked  him  something  in  English.  A  hardly 
perceptible  embarrassment  troubled  the  mem- 
bers of  his  suite.  A  tall  officer  with  epaulettes 
touched  his  eye  with  his  white  gloved  hand; 
a  second  bowed  his  head;  a  third  glanced  in- 
quiringly at  his  neighbour.  The  grey-haired 
general  smiled  respectfully  and  replied  in 
English  to  His  Imperial  Highness,  and  His 
Highness  was  pleased  to  thrust  the  icon 
into  Grigory's  hand,  and  even  to  bestow 
on  him  the  highest  of  honours,  a  touch  on  the 
shoulder. 

After  the  guests  had  departed  Grigory 
dropped  on  to  his  bed  and,  burying  his  face  in 
his  pillow,  lay  for  some  minutes,  his  shoulders 
shaking.  It  was  impossible  to  tell  whether  he 
was  crying  or  laughing.  Certain  it  is  that  he 

634 


rose  with  dry  eyes.  He  was  immediately 
summoned  to  the  room  of  the  chief  surgeon. 

"You  common  lout!"  the  doctor  began, 
crushing  his  mousy-coloured  beard  in  his 
fingers. 

"I'm  not  a  lout,  you  snake!"  Grigory  replied, 
striding  towards  the  doctor.  "I  never  saw  you 
at  the  front."  Then,  recovering  his  self-control, 
he  said  quietly:  "Send  me  home." 

The  doctor  retreated  behind  his  writing 
table,  saying  more  gently:  "We'll  send  you! 
You  can  go  to  the  devil!" 

Grigory  went  out,  his  lips  trembling  with  a 
smile,  his  eyes  glaring.  For  his  monstrous,  un- 
pardonable behaviour  in  the  presence  of  the 
royal  personage  he  was  deprived  of  his  food 
for  three  days.  But  his  comrades  in  the  ward, 
and  the  cook,  a  soft-hearted  man  who  suffered 
from  rupture,  kept  him  supplied, 

XXIV 

It  was  evening  of  November  the  fourth  when 
Grigory  on  his  way  from  the  station  arrived  at 
the  first  village  in  his  own  district.  Yagodnoye 
was  only  a  few  versts  distant.  As  he  passed 
down  the  street  children  were  singing  a  Cos- 
sack   song  under  the  river  willows: 

With  shining  swords  the  Cossacks   ride. . . . 

41*  635 


As  he  listened  to  the  familiar  words  a  chill 
gripped  his  heart  and  hardened  his  eyes. 
Avidly  sniffing  in  the  scent  of  the  smoke  com- 
ing from  the  chimneys,  he  strode  through  the 
village,  the  song  following  him. 

"And  I  used  to  sing  that  song,  but  now  my 
voice  is  gone  and  life  has  broken  off  the  song. 
Here  am  I  going  to  stay  with  another  man's 
wife,  no  comer  of  my  own,  no  home,  like  a 
wolf,"  he  thought,  walking  along  at  a  steady, 
tired  pace,  and  bitterly  smiling  at  his  own 
queerly  twisted  life.  He  climbed  out  of  the 
village,  and  at  the  top  of  the  hill  turned  to 
look  back.  The  yellow  light  of  a  hanging-lamp 
shone  through  the  window  of  the  last  house, 
and  in  its  light  he  saw  an  elderly  woman  sitting 
at  a  spinning-wheel. 

He  went  on,  walking  through  the  damp, 
frosty  grass  at  the  side  of  the  road.  He  spent 
the  night  in  a  little  village,  and  set  out  again 
as  soon  as  day  was  dawning.  He  reached 
Yagodnoye  in  the  evening.  Jumping  across  the 
fence,  he  went  past  the  stables.  The  sound  of 
Sashka's  coughing  arrested  him. 

"Grandad  Sashka,  you  asleep?"  he  shouted. 

"Wait,  who  is  that?  I  know  the  voice.  Who 
is  it?" 

Sashka  came  out,  throwing  his  old  coat 
around     his      shoulders.      "Holy     fathers. . .  ! 

636 


Grisha!     Where  the     devil     have     you     come 
from?" 

They  embraced.  Gazing  up  into  Grigory's 
face,  Sashka  said:  "Come  in  and  have  a 
smoke." 

"No,  not  now.  I  will  tomorrow.  I.  . .  /' 

"Come  in,  I  tell  you." 

Grigory  unwillingly  followed  him  in,  and 
sat  down  on  the  wooden  bunk  while  the  old 
man  recovered  from  a  fit  of  coughing. 

"Well,  Grandad,  so  you're  still  alive.  Still 
walking  the  earth?" 

"Ah,  I'm  like  a  flint.  There'll  be  no  wear 
with  me." 

"And  how's  Aksinya?" 

"Aksinya?  Praise  be,  she's  all  right." 

The  old  man  coughed  violently.  Grigory 
guessed  it  was  a  pretence  to  hide  his  embarrass- 
ment, 

"Where  did  you  bury  Tanya?" 

"In  the  orchard  under  a  poplar." 

"Well,  tell  me  all  the  news." 

"My  cough's  been  troubling  me  a  lot, 
Grisha." 

"Well?" 

"We're  all  alive  and  well.  The  master  drinks 
beyond  all  sense,  the  fool." 

"How's  Aksinya?" 

637 


"She's  a  housemaid  now.  You  might  have  a 
smoke.  Try  my  tobacco,  it's  first-rate," 

"I  don't  want  to  smoke.  Talk,  or  I'm  leaving! 
I  feel.  .  .  ."  Grigory  turned  heavily,  and  the 
wooden  bunk  creaked  under  him.  "I  feel  you're 
keeping  something  from  me,  like  a  stone  under 
your  coat.  Strike!" 

"And  I  will  strike!  I  can't  keep  silent,  Grisha, 
and  silence  would  be  shameful." 

"Tell  me,  then,"  Grigory  said,  letting  his 
hand  drop  caressingly  on  the  old  man's  shoul- 
der. He  waited,  bowing  his  back. 

"You've  been  nursing  a  snake,"  Sashka 
suddenly  exclaimed  in  a  harsh,  shrill  voice. 
"You've  been  feeding  a  serpent.  She's  been 
playing  about  with  Yevgeny." 

A  stream  of  sticky  spittle  ran  down  over  the 
old  man's  scarred  chin.  He  wiped  it  away  and 
dried  his  hand  on  his  trousers. 

"Are  you  telling  the  truth?" 

"I've  seen  them  with  my  own  eyes.  Every 
night  he  goes  to  her,  I  expect  he's  with  her 
now," 

"So  that's  how  it  is!"  Grigory  cracked  his 
knuckles  and  sat  with  hunched  shoulders  for 
a  long  time,  the  muscles  of  his  face  working. 
There  was  a  great  vibrant  ringing  in  his 
ears. 

"A  woman's  like  a  cat,"  Sashka  said.  "She 

638 


makes  up  to  anyone  who  strokes  her.  Don't 
you  trust  them,  don't  give  them  your  trust." 

He  rolled  a  cigarette  and  thrust  it  into 
Grigory's  hand.  "Smoke!" 

Grigory  took  a  couple  of  pulls  at  the 
cigarette,  then  stubbed  it  out  with  his  fingers. 
He  went  out  without  a  word.  He  stopped  by 
the  window  of  the  servants'  quarters,  panting 
heavily,  and  raised  his  hand  several  times  to 
knock.  But  each  time  his  hand  fell  as  though 
struck  away.  When  at  last  he  did  knock  he 
tapped  at  first  with  his  finger;  but  then,  losing 
patience,  he  threw  himself  against  the  wall 
and  beat  at  the  window  furiously  with  his  fist. 
The  frame  rang  with  the  blows,  and  the  blue, 
nocturnal  light  shimmered  on  the  pane. 

Aksinya's  frightened  face  appeared  at  the 
window  for  an  instant,  then  she  opened  the 
door  and  gave  a  little  scream.  He  embraced 
her,  peering  into  her  eyes. 

"You  knocked  so  hard  you  terrified  me.  I 
wasn't  expecting  you.  My  dear.  . . ." 

"I'm  frozen." 

Aksinya  felt  his  big  body  shivering  violently 
although  his  hands  were  feverishly  hot.  She 
fussed  about  unnecessarily,  lighted  the  lamp 
and  ran  about  the  room,  a  downy  shawl  around 
her  plump,  white  shoulders.  Finally  she  lit  a 
fire  in  the  stove. 

639 


"I  wasn't  expecting  you.  It's  so  long  since 
you  wrote.  I  thought  you'd  never  come.  Did 
you  get  my  last  letter?  I  was  going  to  send  you 
a  parcel,  but  then  I  thought  I'd  wait  to  see  if 
I  received  a  letter.  . .  ." 

She  cast  sidelong  glances  at  Grigory,  her 
red  lips  frozen  in  a  smile. 

Grigory  sat  down  on  the  bench  without  tak- 
ing off  his  greatcoat.  His  unshaven  cheeks 
burned,  and  his  lowered  eyes  were  heavily 
shadowed  by  the  cowl  of  his  coat.  He  began 
to  unfasten  the  cowl,  but  suddenly  turned  to 
fidget  with  his  tobacco  pouch,  and  searched 
his  pockets  for  paper.  With  measureless  yearn- 
ing he  ran  his  eyes  over  Aksinya's  face. 

She  had  devilishly  improved  during  his 
absence,  he  thought.  Her  beautiful  head  was 
carried  with  a  new,  authoritative  poise,  and 
only  her  eyes  and  the  large,  fluffy  ringlets  of 
her  hair  were  the  same.  But  her  destructive, 
fiery  beauty  did  not  belong  to  him.  How  could 
it,  when  she  was  the  mistress  of  the  master's 
son! 

"You  don't  look  like  a  housemaid,  you're 
more  like  a  housekeeper." 

She  gave  him  a  startled  look,  and  laughed 
forcedly. 

Dragging  his  pack  behind  him,  Grigory  went 
towards  the  door. 

640 


"Where  are  you  going?" 

"To  have  a  smoke." 

"I've  fried  you  some  eggs." 

"I  won't  be  long." 

On  the  steps  Grigory  opened  his  pack,  and 
from  the  bottom  drew  out  a  hand-painted 
kerchief  carefully  wrapped  in  a  clean  shirt.  He 
had  bought  it  from  a  Jewish  trader  in  Zhitomir 
for  two  rubles  and  had  guarded  it  as  the  apple 
of  his  eye,  occasionally  pulling  it  out  and 
enjoying  its  wealth  of  rainbow  colours,  foretast- 
ing the  rapture  with  which  Aksinya  would  be 
possessed  when  he  should  spread  it  open  before 
her.  A  miserable  gift!  Could  he  compete  in 
presents  with  the  son  of  a  rich  landowner? 
Choking  down  a  spasm  of  dry  sobbing,  he 
tore  the  kerchief  into  little  pieces  and  pushed 
them  under  the  step.  He  threw  the  pack  on  to 
the  bench  in  the  passage  and  went  back  to  the 
room. 

"Sit  down  and  I'll  pull  your  boots  off, 
Grisha." 

With  white  hands  long  divorced  from  hard 
work  she  struggled  with  Grigory's  heavy  army 
boots.  Falling  at  his  knees,  she  wept  long  and 
silently.  Grigory  let  her  weep  to  her  heart's 
content,  then  asked: 

"What's  the  matter?  Aren't  you  glad  to  see 
me?" 

641 


In  bed,  he  quickly  fell  asleep.  Aksinya  went 
out  to  the  steps  in  only  her  shift.  She  stood 
there  in  the  cold,  piercing  wind,  with  her  arms 
round  the  damp  pillar,  listening  to  the  funeral 
dirge  of  the  northern  blast,  and  did  not  change 
her  position  until  dawn  came. 

In  the  morning  Grigory  threw  his  greatcoat 
across  his  shoulders  and  went  to  the  house. 
The  old  master  was  standing  on  the  steps, 
dressed  in  a  fur  jacket  and  a  yellow  Astrakhan 
cap. 

"Why,  there  he  is,  the  Cavalier  of  St.  George! 
But  you're  a  man,  my  friend!"  He  saluted 
Grigory  and  stretched  out  his  hand. 

"Staying  long?" 

"Two  weeks.  Your  Excellency," 

"We  buried  your  daughter.  A  pity  ...  a 
pity " 

Grigory  was  silent.  Yevgeny  came  on  to  the 
steps,  drawing  on  his  gloves. 

"Why,  it's  Grigory.  Where  have  you  arrived 
from?" 

Grigory's  eyes  darkened,  but  he  smiled, 

"Back  on  leave,  from  Moscow." 

"You  were  wounded  in  the  eye,  weren't  you? 
I  heard  about  it.  What  a  fine  lad  he's  grown, 
hasn't  he.  Papa?" 

He  nodded  to  Grigory  and  turned  towards 
the  stables,  calling  to  the  coachman: 

642 


"The  horse,  Nikitich!" 

With  a  dignified  air  Nikitich  finished  harness- 
ing the  horse  and,  giving  Grigory  an  un- 
friendly look,  led  the  old  grey  trotting  horse 
to  the  steps.  The  frost-bound  earth  rustled 
under  the  wheels  of  the  light  droshki. 

"Your  Honour,  let  me  drive  you  for  the 
sake  of  old  times,"  Grigory  turned  to  Yevgeny 
with  an  ingratiating  smile. 

"The  poor  chap  doesn't  guess,"  Yevgeny 
thought,  smiling  with  satisfaction,  and  his  eyes 
glittered  behind  his  pince-nez. 

"All  right,  jump  up." 

"What,  hardly  arrived  and  you're  already 
leaving  your  young  wife?  Didn't  you  miss 
her?"  Old  Listnitsky  smiled  benevolently. 

Grigory  laughed,  "A  wife  isn't  a  bear.  She 
won't  run  off  into  the  forest." 

He  mounted  the  driver's  seat,  thrust  the 
knout  under  it  and  gathered  up  the  reins. 

"Ah,  I'll  give  you  a  drive,  Yevgeny 
Nikolayevich!" 

"Drive  well  and  I'll  stand  you  a  tip." 

"Haven't  I  already  got  enough  to  be  thank- 
ful for.  .  .  ,  I'm  grateful  to  you  for  feeding  . .  . 
my  Aksinya  . . .  for  giving  her  ...  a  piece.  .  . ." 

Grigory's  voice  suddenly  broke,  and  a 
vague,  unpleasant  suspicion  troubled  the 
lieutenant.  "Surely  he  doesn't  know?  Of  course 

648 


not!  How  could  he?"  He  leaned  back  in  his 
seat  and  lit  a  cigarette. 

"Don't  be  long,"  old  Listnitsky  called  after 
them. 

Needle-sharp  snow  dust  flew  from  under  the 
wheels. 

Grigory  pulled  with  the  reins  at  the  horse's 
mouth  and  urged  it  to  its  topmost  speed.  Within 
fifteen  minutes  they  had  crossed  the  rise,  and 
the  house  was  out  of  sight.  In  the  very  first 
dell  they  came  to,  Grigory  jumped  down  and 
pulled  the  knout  from  under  the  seat. 

"What's  the  matter?"  the  lieutenant  frowned. 

"I'll  show  you!" 

Grigory  swung  the  knout  and  brought  it 
down  with  terrible  force  across  the  lieutenant's 
face.  Then,  seizing  it  by  the  lash,  he  beat  the 
officer  with  the  butt  on  the  face  and  arms, 
giving  him  no  time  to  get  up.  A  fragment  of 
the  glass  from  his  pince-nez  cut  Listnitsky 
above  the  brow,  and  a  little  stream  of  blood 
flowed  into  his  eyes.  At  first  he  covered  his  face 
with  his  hands,  but  the  blows  grew  more 
frequent.  He  jumped  up,  his  face  disfigured 
with  blood  and  fury,  and  attempted  to  defend 
himself;  but  Grigory  fell  back  and  paralyzed 
his  arm  with  a  blow  on  the  wrist. 

"That's  for  Aksinya!  That's  for  me!  For 
Aksinya!  Another  for  Aksinya!  For  me!" 

644 


The  knout  whistled,  the  blows  slapped 
softly.  At  last  Grigory  threw  Yevgeny  down  on 
the  hard  ruts  of  the  road  and  rolled  him  on  the 
ground,  kicking  him  savagely  with  the  iron- 
shod  heels  of  his  boots.  When  he  had  no 
strength  to  do  more  he  got  on  to  the  drozhki 
seat,  and  sawing  at  the  horse's  mouth,  galloped 
it  back.  He  left  the  droshki  by  the  gate,  and, 
seizing  the  knout,  stumbling  over  the  flaps  of 
his  open  greatcoat,  he  rushed  into  the  servants' 
quarters. 

As  the  door  crashed  open,  Aksinya  glanced 
round. 

"You  snake!  You  bitch!"  The  knout  whistled 
and  curled  around  her  face. 

Gasping  for  breath,  Grigory  ran  into  the 
yard,  and  heedless  of  Sashka's  questionings, 
left  the  estate.  When  he  had  covered  a  verst  he 
was  overtaken  by  Aksinya.  Panting  violently, 
she  walked  along  silently  at  his  side,  occasion- 
ally pulling  at  his  sleeve.  At  a  fork  in  the  road, 
by  a  brown  wayside  cross,  she  said  in  a 
strange,  distant  voice: 

"Grisha,  forgive  me!" 

He  bared  his  teeth,  and  hunching  his  shoul- 
ders, turned  up  the  collar  of  his  greatcoat. 
Aksinya  was  left  standing  by  the  cross.  He 
did  not  look  back  once,  and  did  not  see  her 
hand  stretched  out  to  him, 

645 


At  the  crest  of  the  hill  above  Tatarsky  he 
noticed  in  astonishment  that  he  was  still  carry- 
ing the  knout;  he  threw  it  away,  then  strode 
down  into  the  village.  Faces  were  pressed 
against  the  windows,  amazed  to  see  him, 
and  the  'women  he  met  bowed  low  as  ,he 
passed. 

At  the  gate  of  his  own  yard  a  slim,  black- 
eyed  beauty  ran  to  meet  him,  flung  her  arms 
around  his  neck  and  buried  her  face  on  his 
breast.  Pressing  her  cheeks  with  his  hands,  he 
raised  her  head  and  recognized  Dunya. 

Pantelei  Prokofyevich  limped  down  the 
steps,  and  Grigory  heard  his  mother  start 
weeping  aloud  in  the  house.  With  his  left  hand 
he  embraced  his  father;  Dunya  was  kissing 
his  right  hand. 

The  almost  painfully  familiar  creak  of  the 
steps,  and  Grigory  was  in  the  porch.  His 
ageing  mother  ran  to  him  light-footed  as  a  girl, 
wetted  the  lapels  of  his  greatcoat  with  her 
tears,  and  embraced  her  son  closely,  muttering 
something  disconnected  in  her  own  mother- 
language  that  could  not  be  put  into  words; 
while  by  the  door,  clinging  to  it  to  save  herself 
from  falling,  stood  Natalya,  a  tortured  smile 
on  her  pale  face.  Cut  down  by  Grigory's 
hurried,  distracted  glance,  she  dropped  to  the 
floor. 

646 


That  night  in  bed,  Pantelei  gave  his  wife  a 
dig  in  the  ribs  and  whispered: 

"Go  quietly  and  see  whether  they're  lying 
together  or  not." 

"I  made  up  their  bed  on  the  bedstead." 

"But  go  on  and  look,  look!" 

Ilyinichna  got  up  and  peeped  through  a  crack 
in  the  door  leading  to  the  best  room. 

"They're  together." 

"Well,  God  be  praised!  God  be  praised!"  the 
old  man  whimpered,  raising  himself  on  his 
elbow  and  crossing  himself. 


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